Kansas City, Missouri, US
June 30
I mostly blog about questioning HIV and AIDS; gay issues; health but will stray onto whatever topic strikes me as relevant on any given day. Read more at my personal blog: Or email me directly at: Jonathan Barnett


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MARCH 2, 2010 6:37PM

Bell's palsy makes me look goofy (w/video)

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Bell's palsyI developed Bell's palsy (BP) a day or two after striking the left side of my head rather severely on the sharp, hard edge of my car door.

After self-diagnosing my symptoms, I was reluctant to seek any medical care, mainly because there really is no successful treatment or cure for BP. Most people recover on their own in a few weeks to months.

However, because of my medical history I do think it is important to document any unusual symptoms or experiences, and BP is unusual, so I called my primary care provider, who is also a "HIV" specialist.

His office staff would not even make an appointment for me, telling me to go to an emergency room instead. Within 30 seconds the ER doc pronounced "Bell's Palsy". There was no need to further examination to rule out a stroke or TIA.

Because I had told him about the injury with the car door, he did order a cat scan of my head.

Prior to prescribing any treatment, the ER doctor called the doctor who refused to see me in the first place and based on that consultation, prescribed prednisone and informed me that he was certain that the Bell's Palsy was the result of my "HIV".

These are words I would never have heard if I were able to hide my HIV-status from health care providers. Once they know you are poz, they need not consider any other possible explanations for health problems.

The cause of Bell's palsy in most people is unknown. Recent scientific studies have called into question the prevailing belief that it is caused by a virus:

"The results cast doubt on previous hypotheses suggesting herpes simplex as the cause of Bell's palsy," Lockhart and colleagues said, suggesting that researchers should look elsewhere for the condition's cause. John Gever, Senior Editor, MedPage Today

That BP can be caused by physical trauma is not questioned. I don't know how a cat scan can rule out damage to a nerve passing though a bone in my skull, but maybe a medical professional could enlighten me.

To see more funny pictures of me, you can watch my youtube video about today's experience:

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I had it when I had my cochlear implant surgery ... they think the surgeon accidentally nicked a nerve in my cheek during surgery. It did go away after a few weeks and the only thing that I took to make it go away sooner was to increase my manganese intake as well as Vitamin B12. It helped.

It happened to me about 5 years ago. Haven't had another bout of it since but that doesn't mean that I won't!

Good luck and hope your recovery is speedy! R
Well, at least you've kept your sense of humor about it! Family members have had it -- it did go away completely after a couple of weeks. And when it does, you'll never take your face for granted again! :)
For being such a "rare" disorder, I'm surprised how many people have told me they have had it or know someone who has. Nearly all of them recovered in a few weeks or months, so I'm hopeful.

That's still a long enough period of time to teach me a lot of patience!
A good friend of mine had this resulting from no physical trauma, he, like you kept a good head about him with a little humor and was back to "normal" in a matter of weeks. xxa
I had it after a bad cold. I had a job where I had to be in front of people all of the time, so my doctor prescribed steroids to try to shrink the swollen tissue around the nerve more quickly. I also slept with a little surgical tape over the eye on that side of my face for a few days, just as a precaution. I was in much better shape after a week or two, and by my one-month checkup with a physical therapist I was in almost perfect shape. The therapist did give me some facial exercises to strengthen muscles and prevent any ongoing issues, so you may want to look into that. Best wishes for a fast recovery!
Thanks for that info wildmarjoram.

I've thought the prednisone would probably relieve some of the worst symptoms, but I'm managing without it so far. My history with that drug and too many other prescription drugs makes me wary of them.

I've also learned to tape my eyelid down for hours at a time to give it a rest. The ER doc was very opposed to any kind of patch on the eye, claiming it could damage the retina. I don't understand his reasoning. I'm far more likely to damage it my accidentally poking it with my finger when trying to blink.

I'll look into the therapy and facial exercises. Sounds like a good idea.