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Under Pressure: Bell's palsy triggered by stress

Opinion

November 12th, 2014 12:02 PM

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