A Very Scary Experience

Imagine that all of a sudden, one side of your face weakens, your eyelid starts to droop, and you cannot smile on that side of your face?!?! What is happening? Are you having a stroke? Are you going to be ok? This is definitely an emergency that warrants a trip to the ER to rule out any neurological issues. Once those are cleared and a full workup is done, you are told you have Bell’s Palsy. I am here to let you know what it is and how it affects your eyes.

What is Bell’s Palsy

Believe it or not, this is a scenario that numerous patients have relayed to me over the years. Thankfully, when they show up in my chair all the big problems (stroke, seizure, aneurysm) have been ruled out and Bell’s palsy has been diagnosed. Bell’s palsy is a neurological condition that paralyzes the facial nerve. It can affect people of all ages, but the median age is around 40 years old and the effects can happen in the course of hours or a day. Recovery can take weeks or even months.

The Eye Needs Protection

You have a variety of symptoms, but my main concern is that you generally lose the ability to close the eye on the affected side. Think about not being able to close your eyes for weeks or months. This is not a good situation for your overall vision. Coming up with a treatment plan to protect the eye and keep it moisturized is of the utmost importance.

My Simple 3-Step Approach

    1. Hydrate and lubricate early and often

        1. Starting with preservative free artificial tears as often as possible. However, this is generally not enough and you need to add an ointment throughout the day. It may blur vision, but that is the price you need to pay to keep the cornea from drying out and possibly scarring
    1. Protect the Eye

        1. The eyelids act as the eye’s protective barrier from the outside world, especially when you are sleeping. So utilizing moisture goggles or even taping the eye shut at night can provide some relief and much needed hydration.
    1. Heal: Regenerative Medicine and Antibiotics

        1. Depending on how well we hydrate and protect the eye, this step may or may not be needed. If there is a lot of dehydration of the cornea, we will utilize amniotic membranes or autologous serum to regenerate the tissue. We will also prescribe an antibiotic to reduce chances of infection.

Consult an expert

I see my Bell’s Palsy patients every 2-4 weeks and keep a close eye on the cornea. Consistent monitoring and constant hydration are the keys to preserving vision as function to the eyelid returns. As always if you have had Bell’s Palsy or know someone who does, reach out at (616) 219-8153 or schedule here, and we would be happy to help!