A number of things can affect our eyesight. Poor vision or impeded vision is often associated with internal factors like leaking in the retina, refractive errors and other vision conditions.
However, there are times when our eyes aren’t to blame for vision problems. That seems to be the case with Bell’s Palsy. This temporary nerve paralysis can cause half of the face to droop, including the eyelids.
Though relatively harmless, Bell’s Palsy can affect your vision for several weeks while the face heels. Adults everywhere should be aware of this condition as it affects 40,000 Americans every year, often between the ages of 15 and 60. Don’t get caught off guard by this puzzling condition.
What is it?
Bell’s Palsy is a temporary paralysis of the face that often comes on suddenly and without warning. Many people find themselves going to the emergency room because the condition shares similar symptoms to that of a stroke.
Though the instinct to seek immediate medical help is a good one, Bell’s Palsy is often nothing to worry about. When Bell’s Palsy strikes, it will affect a large area of one side of the face.
Bell’s Palsy happens when the cranial nerve, the nerve that controls facial expressions, weakens. The muscles in the face begin to droop, which is why so many people believe they are having a stroke. This drooping can cause discomfort and sometimes pain.
Bell’s Palsy vs. Stroke Symptoms
The main symptom of Bell’s Palsy is of course, weakened muscles, but there can be other indicators of the condition. If you experience these symptoms, call your doctor immediately. It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between Bell’s Palsy and stroke symptoms, especially during a state of panic.
Here’s how you can keep calm and tell the difference:
First, Bell’s Palsy will most likely affect a person overnight so that when they wake up in the morning, one side of their face will have completely weakened and drooped. A stoke on the other hand will likely only affect the lower part of the face.
For example, someone with Bell’s Palsy would not be able to move their eyebrows up and down, whereas someone suffering a stroke would still be able to move their eyebrows and forehead. Someone with Bell’s Palsy will also be unable to close the eye on the affected side of the face.
Some other symptoms of Bell’s Palsy include uncontrollable drooling, pain in or behind the ear, sensitivity to sound, temporarily being unable to taste.
Causes and Diagnosis
The exact cause of Bell’s Palsy is not known, but it is widely thought to be caused by the herpes virus, which is known to cause shingles and cold sores.
The virus can cause damage to the cranial nerve with inflammation. When this happens the nerves lose control of the muscles and Bell’s Palsy settles in.
However, the condition is not only thought to be caused by herpes. Diabetics, pregnant women, and those suffering from Lyme disease have a higher risk of developing Bell’s Palsy. It is not known why these factors increase a person’s risk.
Diagnosing Bell’s Palsy is fairly easy. Your doctor will ask you a few questions about your symptoms and will perform a physical and neurological exam to test the function of the facial nerves.
Your doctor may call for more extensive tests such as an MRI or a CT scan if they feel that the symptoms pose a larger threat.
Generally, Bell’s Palsy is nothing to worry about. Symptoms of the condition will normally subside on their own within four to eight weeks. Most people don’t need to use medication, but sometimes doctors will suggest certain drugs to reduce inflammation and swelling.
How Bell’s Palsy Affects the Eyes
Bell’s Palsy does not cause any long term damage to the eye. It also doesn’t cause any internal damage. However, when the facial muscles droop, it can make opening your affected eye very difficult, which will make seeing difficult.
When the eyelids have trouble opening and closing, the eye does not get all the moisture it needs often resulting in dry eyes. Many people with Bell’s Palsy have difficulty even closing their eye while they sleep. That means the affected eye has gone the entire night without moisture.
The dry eyes can then cause blurred vision in the affected eye, and may also cause sharp pains in the eye. If not properly taken care of, the dry eye becomes more sensitive and prone to irritations and infections. These can last much longer than the symptoms of Bell’s Palsy.
If you want to ensure healthy eyes while your muscles heal and regain their strength, there are a couple of options available to you.
First and foremost, you need to make sure that your eyes are getting to moisture they need, especially the affected eye. To do so, you can introduce fish oil supplements or others high in omega-3s. Eggs, flax seeds and flax seed oil are other great alternatives to fish oil.
Omega-3s are known to help the body produce the moisture it needs. If artificial tears are not your cup of tea, omega-3s are a health and natural alternative.
However, if you wake up one morning to find that your eye has been open all night and you’re in desperate need of some instant relief, artificial tears are a good option. Use them sparingly because your eye can become dependent on the artificial tears if they become too used to them.
Using your fingers to open and close the eyelids of the affected eye can also help your eye get the moisture it requires. Doing so once a day can really make a difference, but it can be done more often too if you feel that you need it.
Having Bell’s Palsy is going to be uncomfortable for the most part. You can speed up the healing process by doing facial exercises. These exercises can be as simple as moving your face around and using the affected muscles as much as you can.
This condition affects more adults than you’d think and it can happen to almost anyone. Knowing how to treat Bell’s Palsy and take care of your eyes until your face has healed is important.
If you think you may be experiencing Bell’s Palsy, call your doctor immediately for a proper diagnosis.