Thursday, January 06, 2011

Bell's Palsy

Here's the good news: I didn't have a stroke or even a "TIA".

The bad news? You can't tell by looking at me, because I look just as weirdly lop-sided as someone who has suffered a stroke.

According to the Mayo Clinic, it "... occurs when the nerve that controls facial muscles on one side of your face becomes swollen or inflamed. As a result of Bell's palsy, your face feels stiff. Half your face appears to droop, your smile is one-sided, and your eye resists closing. "

Well, that is a fair description of it. and WebMD has even more information:

The nerve damage may also affect your sense of taste and how you make tears and saliva. This condition comes on suddenly, often overnight, and usually gets better on its own within a few weeks.

Bell's palsy is not the result of a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA). While stroke and TIA can cause facial paralysis, there is no link between Bell's palsy and either of these conditions. Palsy simply means weakness or paralysis.

The cause of Bell's palsy is not clear. Most cases are thought to be caused by the herpes virus that causes cold sores.
I had trouble sleeping Monday night, because I had a stiff neck. The neck muscle on the left side, behind my ear, hurt to distraction. I tried a couple of aspirin and still didn't get much sleep.

Wednesday I was halfway through the day when I noticed that my lips felt numb. That evening I realized that I could feel it when I touched my lips, but they just felt ... weird. It was just like after you've been to the dentist and later the Novocain wears off ... you can't quite get the feeling that you can control your mouth.

This morning I was getting ready for work and realized that I couldn't control my left eye. My eyes were watering and I tried to squeeze my eyes shut. My left eye wouldn't squeeze. With experimentation, I found I could close both eyes normally, as if I were sleeping. But I couldn't wink my left eye; which was strange, because I've always been able to wink with each eye independently.

So I looked in the mirror and sure enough, the left side of my mouth drooped, the lips looked somehow thinner on that side than the right side. When I open my mouth, it's a great teardrop shape rather than round. So much for me singing the Hallelujah Chorus. Or whistling "Dixie".

I called my doctor and described my symptoms to my doctor; the left side of my face feels numb, and I don't have any motor controls on that side, and there's a pain on my left side behind my ear.

I didn't tell them I thought I might have had a stroke. This is fear fighting with denial. It has always worked well with me.

They cleared some time for me in the schedule, and I went in to see the doctor this afternoon.

When the nurse came in to get me out of the waiting room, she mentioned as she walked me into the Treatment room: "Well, looks like you have a good case of "Bell's Palsy".


Turns out it's better than having a stroke, because they can treat this. Just take a few pills a day for a couple of weeks, and it will go away.

So it's all fix-able, but there are only 3 problems:
  1. Sense of taste is all messed up; nothing tastes good, except for very strong flavored foods. I'll be eating sausage, garlic, and sour-cream-and-onion potato chips for a while.
  2. My manly visage is twisted horribly (?) out of shape, ruining my regular features. You may think this is no great loss, but at this moment there are hundreds of young virgins weeping.
  3. The eyelid, according to the doctor, may not close while I'm sleeping. This causes the cornea to dry out, possibly causing permanent damage to the cornea. I have to use eyedrops regularly, and at night I have to tape my eyelid shut and then tape a gauze patch over it. Fortunately, I found a black eyepatch so I can still look handsome even in my sleep.

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