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Bell's palsy: causes and treatments

Bell's palsy is a form of facial paralysis that affects about 40,000 men and women in the U.S. every year. This comes to about 1 in 60 people, most of them between the ages of 15 and 60. Kentucky residents may want to know more about it because the facial droopiness that results can be mistaken for a symptom of a stroke.

Trauma to the facial nerve known as the seventh cranial nerve will lead to Bell's palsy. When damaged, the nerve will paralyze the muscles that control eye closure and part of the smile as well as affect the tear ducts and taste sensations. Patients may become unable to blink their eye and develop a crooked smile.

Viral infections can kick-start inflammation, which in turn swells and damages the nerve. Hypertension is sometimes associated with the condition, but doctors have not determined it to be a possible cause. Bell's palsy is also associated with headaches, tumors, headaches and chronic middle ear infections.

Patients will normally start recovering in two weeks with full recovery achieved in three to six months' time. Doctors normally treat Bell's palsy with a combination of steroids and antiviral medication, and physical therapy could help shorten the duration of the paralysis. More invasive procedures like BOTOX injections and surgery may be necessary for long-term cases.

Bell's palsy often goes undiagnosed, especially in newborns. If a doctor's negligence lies behind a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, victims or their families may be able to file a medical malpractice suit and receive damages. This is where a lawyer may come in and represent the victim's interests. Malpractice attorneys might request an inquiry with the local medical board and even hire third parties to conduct an investigation. Attorneys may also handle all negotiations, taking a case to court if a settlement is not reached.

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