The facial nerve, or seventh cranial nerve, as its names suggest is partly located in the skull and controls some of the facial muscles. When it becomes inflamed or swollen it can suffer from too much pressure against the walls of its tunnel through the skull, causing Bell’s Palsy. Bell’s Palsy results in paralysis or weakness of facial muscles.
Causes of this problem are not well understood, but it has been linked with:
- high cholesterol,
- high blood pressure, and
- diabetes (as well as some viral infections).
Ralph Nader was said to suffer from the condition after riding on an airplane with his head resting against the bulkhead).
Investigators at University Hospital of Alexandroupolis and Democritus University of Thrace in Greece looked at how diabetes might affect the course of Bell’s Palsy. Their study, published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine in November 2012, included 56 people diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy. Twenty patients were found to have abnormally high HbA1c levels, and included…
- more cases of severe Bell’s Palsy than those with normal blood sugar levels.
- the good news is after 6 months the patients who had high blood sugar levels had improved enough so the severity of their cases was equal to that of patients with normal HbA1c levels.
From these results it was concluded diabetic patients were more severely affected than nondiabetics, but were able to recover just as well.
People with Bell’s Palsy can resemble individuals with strokes because their faces often show drooping from weak muscles…
- they can have trouble showing expressions such as smiling,
- they can have problems with drooling or eating and having food spill from their mouths.
- if one eye is difficult to close, patients need to use lubricating eye drops and a patch to keep the eye from drying out and becoming infected.
- muscles of the face can twitch.
Patients can experience dry mouth, headaches, loss of their sense of taste, and hearing sounds more loudly in one ear than in the other.
In most cases Bell’s Palsy begins to improve after three weeks and can be completely resolved within weeks or months. Some cases are treated with:
- cortisone to lessen the nerve’s inflammation, or
- anti-viral agents can be effective if a virus is suspected.
In extreme cases surgery is resorted to. Sometimes facial weakness, twitching, and loss of taste can remain after other signs and symptoms are gone.
Many Type 2 diabetes suffer high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well, so getting all three under control is important for preventing a wide range of illnesses, including Bell’s Palsy.