Weakness or paralysis of the face are symptoms of a disorder involving the facial nerve. This can result from infection, injury, or tumours. You would consult a neuro-otologist who will be able to investigate the reason for the weakness and advise treatment.
The facial nerve carries electrical impulses to the facial muscles and allows us to move the face and this allows us to laugh, cry, smile, or frown.
The facial nerve passes from the brain through the base of the skull, the bone of the ear (temporal bone) and then through the salivary gland in the face (parotid) before branching to supply the various facial muscles.
The most common cause of facial weakness which comes on suddenly is referred to as “Bell’s palsy.” Although the exact cause is still unknown, it is probably due to the body’s response to a virus causing swelling of the nerve. In order to exclude other causes, certain tests would be advised such as hearing tests, nerve conduction tests and imaging (CT and MRI).
The results of diagnostic testing will determine treatment. Antibiotics, antivirals and steroids may be used. In certain circumstances, surgical removal of the bone around the nerve (decompression) through an ear operation may be appropriate.
When the facial nerve is paralyzed, considerable attention must be given to maintaining a healthy eye, which requires a constant flow of tears. Closing the eye by taping the eyelid, protective glasses or clear eye patches are often used to keep the eye moist.
If the eye is dry, you may be advised to use artificial tears to keep it moist.
Patients with permanent facial paralysis may be rehabilitated through a variety of surgical procedures If these procedures are needed, you may discuss them with your neuro-otologist.