Student issues warning on recognizing signs of Bell's Palsy, a form of facial paralysis

Denise Dador Image
Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Bell's Palsy: Recognizing facial paralysis early is key to treatment
Bell's Palsy can cause partial facial paralysis and recognizing the signs early is key to treatment.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- As many as 1 in 60 Americans could wake up with a sudden episode of facial paralysis. It can affect how you eat, sleep and talk.

If Bell's Palsy isn't treated early, recovery could take much longer and in some cases the damage could be permanent.

One young lady is sharing her story of how she failed to recognize the signs.

"I was definitely super stressed," said graduate student Adyasha Maharana.

A week before she had to turn in a final, she woke up with unexplained facial pain.

She thought it might be a lack of sleep or a dental issue, but a few days later the symptoms got worse.

"I was not able to raise my eyebrows, I was not able to smile. I was not able to eat," she said.

"The issues are that someone can't close their eyes. People can get corneal abrasions," said neurologist Dr. Clifford Segil with Providence Saint John's Health Center.

He diagnosed Maharana with Bell's Palsy, a condition that occurs when a particular facial nerve gets damaged or inflamed.

"Cranial nerve 7 is the one that goes to your face. There's a branch that goes to your eye, a branch that goes to your nose, and a branch that runs to your mouth," he said.

The condition can last for two weeks or up to six months.

The cause?

"We think it's a virus. Most people think it's a post-Herpes infection sort of like you get when you get a cold sore," said Segil.

While it's difficult to prevent, Segil said the earlier patients can get treatment, the faster they recover. Although, it may take longer for people with chronic conditions, like diabetes.

"As soon as I started taking the prednisone, just that day itself, I could see significant improvements in my condition," Maharana said.

During recovery, Segil recommends patients use medical tape to shut their eyelids while sleeping, whistle to stimulate nerve function and avoid acupuncture.

"Let your body heal itself. I think if you put a needle in your face, you're encouraging the nerve to grow towards the needle, so I discourage acupuncture for this," he said.

It's important to see a neurologist to rule out other serious conditions. Segil said if you have any sign of facial weakness or paralysis see a doctor right away.

"I was so busy with work that I basically failed to recognize the onset. The first thing that I learned is to not ignore symptoms," said Maharana.