Carnie Wilson Disorder: 8 Facts About Bell's Palsy (VIDEO)

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(Photo: Reuters/Steve Marcus)Singer Carnie Wilson (R) and husband Rob Bonfiglio arrives at the 37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards show at the Las Vegas Hilton in Las Vegas, Nevada June 27, 2010.

Carnie Wilson has announced that she suffers from a disorder called Bell's Palsy. Little is known by most people about the condition apart from that it is some kind of facial paralysis.

Here are nine facts about Bell's Palsy, as promoted by the National Institutes of Health:

What is Bell's Palsy?

It is a form of temporary facial paralysis which is produced as a result of damage or trauma of the facial nerves. The facial nerve is found in a narrow, bony canal (called the Fallopian canal) in the skull, beneath the ear, to the muscles on each side of the face.

In Bell's Palsy the function of the facial nerve is disrupted, and the messages sent from the brain to the facial muscles are interrupted, which results in facial weakness or paralysis.

Why is it called Bell's Palsy?

The condition is named for Sir Charles Bell, a 19th century Scottish surgeon who was the first to describe the condition. The disorder, which is not related to stroke, is the most common cause of facial paralysis.

What are the symptoms for Bell's Palsy?

Symptoms vary from person to person and also range in severity from mild weakness of the facial muscles to complete paralysis. Symptoms include twitching, weakness, or paralysis on one or rarely both sides of the face. Other symptoms may include drooping of the eyelid and corner of the mouth, drooling, dryness of the eye or mouth, impairment of taste, and excessive tearing in one eye.

What causes Bell's Palsy?

The condition occurs when the nerve that controls the facial muscles becomes swollen, inflamed or compressed, which results in facial weakens or paralysis as described above.

Many scientists believe that viral infections such as viral meningitis or the common cold sore virus—herpes simplex—causes the disorder. The disorder has also been associated with influenza or a flu-like illness, headaches, chronic middle ear infection, high blood pressure, diabetes, sarcoidosis, tumors, Lyme disease, and trauma such as skull fracture or facial injury.

Who gets Bell's Palsy?

Bell's palsy afflicts approximately 40,000 Americans each year. It affects men and women equally and can occur at any age, but it is less common before age 15 or after age 60.

It is known to disproportionately attack those with diabetes or upper respiratory ailments such as the flu or a cold.

How is it diagnosed?

A diagnosis of Bell's palsy is made based on clinical presentation -- including a distorted facial appearance and the inability to move muscles on the affected side of the face -- and by ruling out other possible causes of facial paralysis. There is no specific laboratory test to confirm diagnosis of the disorder.

How is it treated?

Because the condition affects different sufferers with different severities the treatments can be different for each person.

Some cases are mild and do not require treatment as the symptoms usually subside on their own within 2 weeks. For others, treatment may include medications and other therapeutic options. If an obvious source is found to cause Bell's palsy (e.g., infection), directed treatment can be beneficial.

Where can I get more information?

The full information from the National Institutes of Health website can be found by clicking here.

Also for more information on neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, contact the Institute's Brain Resources and Information Network (BRAIN) at:
P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD 20824
(800) 352-9424
Information also is available from the following organizations:

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT 06810
Tel: 203-744-0100 Voice Mail 800-999-NORD (6673)
Fax: 203-798-2291