The condition of of lips and face suddenly moving to one side can cause severe mental stress in anyone. It's a disease that changes the shape of the face suddenly without a warning. The seventh cranial nerve, or facial nerve, controls the muscles of the face, eye sockets, and some muscles of the tongue and ears. This is done when the nerve comes down through the middle ear from the inside of the brain and divides into several branches to give movement to the facial muscles.
The paralysis of this facial nerve is termed Bell’s Palsy. The cause is a blockage due to some kind of viral infection or swelling inside the nerve. Even cold wind blowing into your ears while travelling long distances and prolonged exposure to cold air on the ears can lead to Bell’s Palsy. This disease is very common even though it can cause severe mental stress to the patient as the face mildly distorts to one side. The first symptom usually starts with the lower lip. Since one side of the lips is paralyzed the patient will start drooling from one side of the mouth when he/she spits out. Another symptom is difficulty in closing the eyes. It affects the muscles of the eyelids and hence the eyes remain open even while sleeping.
It affects the facial muscles completely within 2-3 days of symptoms. The main symptoms are difficulty in closing the eyes, lips, and facial muscles turning to one side, a feeling of swelling in the head, loss of taste, and hoarse voice. Bell's palsy is not preventable. But if the disease is identified, treatment should be sought immediately.
Swelling can be relieved and reversed with steroid treatment and antiviral medications. 85% of people with Bell's palsy recover within 3–6 weeks. The medicine is sufficient for 10–15 days. Later, facial muscles can be brought back to normal through physiotherapy. However, it is difficult for some patients to fully recover if the nerves are severely damaged.
If the eyelids are affected and the eyes are not closed regularly, the dust will fall and damage the cornea and affect the vision. To avoid this, eye drops should be poured regularly, and an eye ointment should be applied while sleeping.
(Inputs from Dr. Vivek Nambiar, Head of Stroke Division, Department of Neurology, Amrita Hospital, Kochi)