Facial Paralysis: Causes, Treatment, And Recovery
Facial paralysis is a medical condition that can drastically alter your appearance and communication. It occurs when the nerves that stimulate the muscles in face become damaged. Typically, patients with facial paralysis may experience accelerated aging, inability to form a smile, or difficulty communicating with common facial expressions. Fortunately, if you are struggling with facial paralysis, there are some things you can do to restore your appearance and your ability to express yourself.
What causes facial paralysis?
Facial paralysis can happen on one or both sides of the face, but it is more commonly limited to one side. If you start to notice that one side of your face droops and begins to look older, you should seek medical attention -- paralysis usually always indicates an more serious medical condition. While it can have immediate onset, it can also develop slowly over a period of months, which can make it more difficult to catch at first. The most common conditions that lead to facial paralysis are:
- Stroke. Usually, facial paralysis is immediate upon the onset of the stroke. In serious cases, the nerve damage is permanent and the drooping in the face remains after recovery.
- Tumor. A tumor in the face, brain or neck can affect the facial nerve. In this case, the paralysis often becomes more pronounced as the tumor grows larger. Moderate or mild paralysis can be a factor that helps to diagnose the growing malignancy.
- Bell's palsy. This is an almost immediate facial paralysis. Doctor's don't know exactly what causes it, but it results in facial paralysis from direct damage to the nerve through inflammation. This paralysis can be temporary.
- Facial fractures or severe bruising. Bleeding next to the nerves can lead to damage.
- Other medical conditions like Lyme disease or autoimmune responses (like those from lupus or diabetes).
How can facial paralysis be fixed?
In many cases, even when the medical condition causing the paralysis is treated, the nerve damage remains. You don't have to live with a drooping face and all the consequences that come with it. The best remedy for facial paralysis is plastic surgery.
Typically, facelifts are a strictly cosmetic procedure designed to make a patient look younger. The same techniques, however, can be used to restore a more natural look to your facial expressions. This process is called facial reanimation.
Your plastic surgeon will take portions of the deactivated muscle and reattach them to areas that still have nerve activity. Restoring the smile is the one the most essential parts of a facial reanimation facelift, typically achieved by attaching the tendons of the affected muscles to the mandible or the area close to the corners of the mouth. Also, because facial paralysis leads to accelerated aging, traditional facelift techniques that remove and stretch the skin can help, especially when trying to match two sides of the face together. When one side is affected and the other is healthy, matching the paralyzed side with the normal will reflect the true age of the patient.
Can you recover fully of facial paralysis?
This question is mostly answered by the prognosis of the condition that caused the paralysis in the first place. Bell's palsy is often temporary, but it can last for several months, so the gravitational aging effect on your face will still prematurely age it, even after full muscle tone is restored. In the cases of cancer or stroke, it's imperative to get treatment as soon as possible. The sooner you are able to remove the tumor or treat the stroke, the better chance your facial nerves have of suffering no lasting damage.
For more information on facial paralysis treatment, talk to a plastic surgeon who specializes in facelifts and reanimation. Contact a company like My Plastic Surgery Group to get started.