Under Pressure: Bell's palsy triggered by stress

Opinion

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ANGELIC JONES

Stress can lead to disease in the body. This is an undeniable fact. Recently, I experienced sickness related to increased stress in my life. I had facial paralysis and at the tender age of 35 I believed I had a stroke because of the initial symptoms I noticed. I was not, however, having a stroke. I was experiencing a stress related disease, Bell's palsy.

Bell's palsy is a disruption of function of the cranial nerve. The cranial nerve controls facial movement. An untrained eye would view the symptoms of Bell's palsy as a stroke. The face doesn't respond in a normal way. The mouth does not like to smile. The eyebrow does not lift. And eyes doe not blink. The blinking eyelid protects the cornea from damage. The eye lid drops and captures moisture while preventing debris from entering the eye.

When a patient has Bell's palsy it is essential to use eye drops and cover the eye with an eye patch when sleeping. Doctors know that a patient is having an episode of Bell's palsy by ruling out stroke through a series of tests.

The main difference between Bell's palsy and stroke is that a stroke patient can still control the upper part of their face. Stroke patients will also show some weakness in function. So testing will show that a person is unable to lift or push or their reflexes won't respond when they have had a stroke.

The main topic of discussion with a doctor who has ruled out stroke is what type of stress you have in your life. I found after talking to multiple doctors they all wanted to know whether I was recently going through stressful events. I work in an emergency department and I am personally constantly busy. My answer was a resounding yes to all three doctors and the nurse who asked me the same thing. Apparently, the more stressed you are the weaker your immune system and also the less functional your body systems are. The damage to the seventh cranial nerve that causes the facial paralysis is not permanent and Bell's palsy will eventually go away within six weeks. However, to speed healing doctors prescribe a steroid, prednisone. This should shorten healing time. When I had Bell's palsy my healing occurred in a two-week period with the help of a prednisone treatment.

Recommendations from the emergency doctors also included lifestyle changes for stress reduction and a suggestion that I take vitamins. Minor changes to reduce stress and build the immune system are worth being able to eat and drink without food and liquids falling out of your mouth. The only time an adult should desire to wear an eye patch is at Halloween. Wearing that patch nightly to protect your eyes from damage is a chore in itself.

Having Bell's palsy is not an experience anyone wants to have. Your stress manifesting itself on your face makes all of your problems and your pain truly visible to others. Your face appears disfigured because you can't smile. And people notice your odd appearance. If you can do yourself any favors in this life, avoid letting stress have a weighted effect on your health. Eliminating stress is a choice of how you will handle triggers in your life.

If something triggers anxiety do not deal with it or handle it a different way so that it does not make you physically sick.

Angelic Jones is a freelance writer and book reviewer for Austin Weekly News.

CONTACT: ajoneswrites4u@excite.com

Reader Comments

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Gloria Skaggs from Houston  

Posted: January 3rd, 2017 5:12 PM

Caring for 2 elderly aunts and then having to mange their estates put me under a lot of stress for 2 years and then Bell's Palsy struck. I've had it for over a year and a half. Highly recommend applying Arnica gel or peppermint oil to the face. Take a complete vitamin B complex supplement & MSM mixed in water with some lemon juice every day. I've also added passion flower and even though it's been over 18 months, I am seeing improvement in my facial strength. At times, I can even raise my eyebrow and the swelling in my cheek and eyelids is beginning to subside. I can even put mascara on my lashes without it getting on my upper lid. The corner of my mouth is still weak but I am exercising it by making faces and saying silly sentences like "baby blue buggy bumper" to strengthen nerves above my lip which is still swollen . Also, chewing on the weak side is helping strengthen muscles. Also suggest massages and acupuncture with nerve stimulation which is painful but has helped. None of my physicians even suggested any of the above therapies. A lady at the health food store told me she had gotten BP and suggested the herbal supplements. Her BP went away completely so I figured I didn't have anything to lose by trying it. Good luck to everyone and wish you a speedier recovery.

Matt Bellinger  

Posted: October 27th, 2016 1:43 PM

Stress can bring on a lot. They say it doesn't really cause anything but exacerbates anything and everything. I found that a great way to deal is to put a smile on your face. Have you ever tried to fell bad with a smile on?

Kim Roberts from kansas  

Posted: May 19th, 2016 6:19 PM

I got bells palsy 6 weeks after I lost my mom. That was 8 years ago and I still have it. :'(

Michelle from reno  

Posted: March 8th, 2016 11:13 AM

There is evidence that the herpes virus may be responsible for causing BP. I know I had a small cold sore on my lip and an achy feeling behind my ear and extending to the gland under my jaw when my BP happened. The herpes virus lives dormant in one's spine until stress brings it on. I rarely get cold sores nowadays, but stress is a big factor when I do. I believe this particular time the virus may have affected the 7th cranial nerve, as BP does, and manifested itself this way. Stress! Yes!

Tracy beauchamp from Twickenham  

Posted: November 19th, 2015 4:52 PM

I have now had Bell's palsy 4 times and I do believe all my attacks are due to stress. I was told at a & e when I had my 2nd attack that it was very uncommon to have Bell's palsy twice. My attacks have been 10 to 13 years apart, but the last 2 attacks have been 11 months apart. I have been suffering with this horrible problem since the age of 23. If stress is the cause it's the last thing you need as looking and feeling completely abnormal just adds to your stress.

Susan H from Wasilla  

Posted: September 15th, 2015 11:32 AM

I'm starting to realize that stress may have caused mine as well. I have had Bells for 9 weeks today. It is partially getting better but my eye is really giving me problems. I also have had quite a bit of nerve pain in my neck and have to take Neurontin. Having this has put a hold on making things better in my life. I feel completely stuck.

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