Bell's palsy can strike abruptly

On Call

March 04, 1997|By Dr. Simeon Margolis | Dr. Simeon Margolis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Can Bell's palsy cause blurred vision?

Bell's Palsy, a weakness or paralysis of the muscles on one side of the face, affects one in 60 to 70 people. The cause is unknown but is thought to involve an inflammation of the facial nerve. Although some people experience warning symptoms of pain behind the ear for one or two days preceding the weakness, the onset is usually abrupt with symptoms peaking within 48 hours.

Weakness and drooping muscles create an expressionless appearance to the affected side of the face, along with a loss of taste on one side of the tongue. Sounds may seem louder in the ear on the affected side.

Bell's palsy does not cause blurred vision, but those severely affected may be unable to close one eye. In such cases, it is important to protect the eye, possibly with goggles during the day, and by keeping it from becoming too dry by using artificial tears and a patch to close the eye at night.

Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people recover completely from Bell's palsy within three months or less, especially when the muscle paralysis is incomplete and improvement begins soon after the onset of symptoms. At times, the regenerating nerves may be misdirected so that, for example, the nerve to the jaw goes instead to the eyelid. As a result, the one eye may close or wink whenever the jaw is opened.

Dr. Margolis is professor of medicine and biological chemistry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Pub Date: 3/04/97

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