A facial palsy can occur for a variety of reasons. The facial nerve innervates the muscles on one side of the face ,it is rare to have both facial nerves involved. There are 5 main branches of the nerve to the face and any or all branches may be affected. The muscles become weak- it may be difficult or impossible to lift eyebrows, close eyes, close mouth and smile. This can leave the eye at risk of infection and make eating difficult. It is also very distressing for the patient as the visible sagging of the face can be unsightly.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
If inflammation of the nerve is thought to be the cause the patients G.P. may prescribe steroid medications to help control it.
Physiotherapy for facial palsy will aim to restore muscle strength and symmetry. An eye patch may need to be worn to protect the eye until the eye muscles recover enough to close the eye. Massage is used to stimulate circulation to facial muscles. Exercises are prescribed to target the weak muscles usually using a mirror to ensure symmetry. In cases of very weakened muscles a neuro muscular stimulator may be used. This is a small electrical machine which produces an electrical stimulus through tiny electrodes attached to the face ensuring the muscle contracts maximally and in doing so strengthens up. Modern machines are very comfortable for the patient to use and can even be rented out for home treatment.