Dr Julian Sargon-Ungar: Effective Treatment Options For Bell’s Palsy

Affecting about 40,000 people each year, Bell’s Palsy can be a pretty daunting and disconcerting experience. Nevertheless, most individuals affected significantly improve or completely recover within three to six months. For that, Dr Julian Sargon-Ungar will discuss various treatment options for Bell’s Palsy and offer insights into managing this condition.



Medical Treatments For Bell’s Palsy


  • Corticosteroids – Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are prescribed as the first line of treatment for Bell’s Palsy. They work by reducing inflammation and alleviating pressure on the facial nerve. Treatment usually starts within 72 hours after the onset of symptoms and lasts for about 5 to 10 days. Recent research has found that starting corticosteroids early significantly improves the chances of complete recovery.


  • Antiviral Medications – In cases where Bell’s Palsy is suspected to be caused by a viral infection, such as HSV-1 or varicella-zoster virus (the virus responsible for chickenpox and shingles), antiviral medications like acyclovir, famciclovir, or valacyclovir may be prescribed. Although studies have reported mixed results on the benefit of antiviral medications, some healthcare providers use them in conjunction with corticosteroids in more severe cases.


  • Pain-relief Medication – Depending on the individual’s pain level, over-the-counter pain-relief medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen can be advised. Dr Julian Sargon-Ungar believes that these specific medications help alleviate pain and discomfort that might be experienced during the acute phase of Bell’s Palsy.



Supportive and Complementary Treatments


  • Physical Therapy – Facial exercises, administered under the guidance of a physical therapist or a licensed professional, help improve muscle strength and coordination. It can also potentially reduce long-term issues like synkinesis (the unintended contraction of facial muscles). Massaging the affected area and performing specific facial exercises can enhance recovery.


  • Moist Heat and Massage – Applying moist heat to the affected area can soothe the facial muscles, stimulate blood circulation, relax muscle spasms, and be an adjunct to physical therapy.


  • Electrical Stimulation – Though controversial, some studies suggest that electrical stimulation of the facial muscles (conducted by a medical professional) can be beneficial in promoting muscle coordination and preventing muscle atrophy.


  • Acupuncture – Acupuncture therapy, particularly in the early stage of the disease, may help reduce the severity of paralysis and improve overall recovery. However, further research is necessary to validate the efficacy of acupuncture in Bell’s Palsy.


  • Biofeedback – Biofeedback techniques can aid relaxation and promote better muscle control, reinforcing physical therapy. This type of therapy harnesses sensors to provide instant visual, auditory, or tactile feedback on the patient’s muscle movement, allowing them to regulate and improve muscle function.


  • Eye Care and Protection – Since Bell’s Palsy can compromise the ability to blink or close the affected eye, it is crucial to emphasize eye care. To prevent drying and potential damage, lubricating eye drops or artificial tears can be used throughout the day, and ointments should be applied at bedtime. An eye patch or protective glasses can also help shield the eye from dust and debris.


  • Emotional Support – Lastly, the psychological impact of Bell’s Palsy should not be underestimated. The sudden onset can be distressing, and the altered appearance may lead to feelings of self-consciousness and lowered self-esteem. Patients need to lean on their support network of friends, family, and healthcare providers, and seek professional help if feelings of anxiety or depression develop.