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- Facial nerve problems and Bell's palsy facts
- What is the facial nerve?
- What are symptoms of a facial nerve problem?
- What conditions affect the facial nerve?
- How are the causes of facial nerve dysfunction diagnosed?
- What is and what causes Bell's palsy?
- What are the symptoms of Bell's palsy?
- What is the mechanism of injury in Bell's palsy?
- What are treatment options of facial nerve paralysis?
- What is the treatment for eye problems from facial nerve disorder?
- What surgical reconstruction options are available?
- What is the prognosis for facial nerve problems?
- Can facial nerve problems be prevented?
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What are treatment options of facial nerve paralysis?
There are no medications specifically approved to treat Bell's palsy. Underlying medical conditions that lead to facial nerve disorder are treated specifically according to the specific condition that is responsible for the damage to the nerve. Steroid medications (corticosteroids) are the best treatment for Bell's palsy, and it is recommended that all patients be treated. The usual amount is one milligram per kilogram body weight of prednisone (or steroid alternative) per day for 7 to 14 days. Recently, antiviral medications like acyclovir (Zovirax) given in conjunction with steroids have been demonstrated to increase recovery. Doses of the antiviral agent will vary with the drug chosen.
Although physical therapy and electrotherapy probably have no significant benefit, facial exercises can help prevent contractures of affected muscles. Surgical facial nerve decompression is controversial in Bell's palsy. Some physicians recommend surgical decompression during the first two weeks in patients showing the most severe nerve degeneration; however, there can be a substantial risk of hearing loss with this surgery.
What is the treatment for eye problems from facial nerve disorder?
Patients with facial nerve paralysis have difficulty keeping their eye closed because the muscles which close the eye cannot work. Serious complications can occur if the cornea of the eye becomes too dry. Treatment consists of:
- protective glasses which can prevent dust from entering the eye;
- manual closure of the eye with a finger to keep it moist -- patients should use the back of their finger rather than the tip to insure that the eye is not injured;
- artificial tears or ointments to help keep the eye lubricated;
- taping or patching the eye closed with paper tape while asleep; and
- in cases in which recovery is incomplete, a temporary or permanent narrowing of the eye opening (tarsorrhaphy) may be necessary.