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Unique Treatment for Bell's Palsy


Unique treatment for Bell’s Palsy now available at Shore Eye Associates

Bell’s Palsy, named for 19th century Scottish surgeon Sir Charles Bell, is a temporary paralysis of the Seventh Cranial Nerve also referred to as the facial nerve.  The facial nerve is responsible for delivering movement signals to the muscles of the face, stimulation of the tear and salivary glands, returning taste sensation from your tongue to your brain and innervating one of the small bones in the middle ear.  You have two facial nerves one on each side of your face.

When one of the facial nerves isn’t working correctly you get a droop on that side of your face.  The corner of your mouth droops, you can’t smile, and you have trouble closing your eye on the affected side.

Bell’s Palsy is often temporary.  It can be caused by any process that interrupts the flow of information through the facial nerve such as ischemia (a lack of blood flow as in a stroke), swelling, compression or an infection (frequently thought to be caused by the herpes simplex virus that causes the common cold sore).  If the insult to the nerve is temporary then the condition may resolve eventually but it could take 3-6 months to do so.

Although many people are upset about how their face looks if they get a Bell’s Palsy the bigger problem is keeping the eye healthy.  When a significant Bell’s Palsy strikes most people cannot close their eyelids all the way.  This can lead to severe damage to the cornea because it dries out if the eyelids can’t close over top of it.  The cornea needs to be constantly bathed in tears to keep it moist.  The majority of your tears lay along your lower eyelid and when you blink the upper eyelid comes down to meet the lower eyelid and it then pulls tears up and over the cornea.  If you can’t blink then the cornea can get severely dry and that can lead to disruption of the corneal surface tissue and eventually to a corneal ulcer.  Corneal ulcers can lead to severe vision loss and even blindness.

Keeping the eye moist under these conditions is challenging but it must be done to prevent the onset of a corneal ulcer.  Initial treatment includes aggressive use of lubricating drops, ointments and sometimes resorting to taping the eyelids closed especially at night when the patient is sleeping.

Having to put drops in sometimes as frequently as every 15 minutes all day long gets very burdensome.  There is another solution for the treatment of a temporary Bell’s Palsy marketed by the MedDev corporation called Blinkeze®.  The device is a weight that is placed on the external upper eyelid and helps close the eyelid when you blink or gently attempt to close the eye.  There are various size weights and the goal is to find just the right weight to allow the lid to close when blinking but not so heavy that the lid stays closed all the time.  Here at Shore Eye Associates we have a weight fitting set in our Toms River office to let our doctors determine the exact weight needed to help the eyelid close.  Once the correct weight is determined a weight is ordered from the company that is covered in a material to closely match your eyelid skin tone to make the weight less noticeable.  It also comes with specialized adhesive strips so the weight can be removed and then replaced by the patient at home whenever necessary.

This treatment is meant as a temporary fix while you are waiting for the nerve to regenerate and begin working on its own.  As soon as the function of the eyelids return the weight can be discontinued.  If the Bell’s Palsy does not correct itself and becomes permanent then a weight can be surgically inserted under the upper eyelid skin instead of the temporary weight on the outside of the eyelid.

If you or someone you know are being affected by Bell’s Palsy and are in need of help please make an appointment in our Toms River office and we can find the right sized weight to help your problem.

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Sunday, 17 October 2021

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