Health Team

Facial paralysis disease needs two treatments

Posted September 1, 2009

A virus can cause a type of temporary facial paralysis, but antiviral treatments don't help much unless they are combined with steroids, according to new research.

The disease is called Bell's Palsy and can happen in about one in 60 people.

Steroids, antivirals treat facial paralysis Steroids, antivirals treat facial paralysis

Diane D'Uva was struck with the disease more than five years ago.

"I woke up, and I thought I was having some sort of allergic reaction because my face was very numb," D'Uva said.

"What happens is one side of the face gets very droopy, which, of course, is extremely disconcerting," explained Dr. Gordon Guyatt, a professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

D'Uva was immediately given a prescription for a steroid that would help relieve the pressure on her facial nerve. She did not get an antiviral agent, which is another suggested treatment for Bell's Palsy.

New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association studied which medication works best.

"We looked at all the randomized trials that looked at either of these two treatments – steroids or antiviral agents for Bell's Palsy – to try and get the best estimate of the effects of those treatments," Guyatt said.

Data from more than 2,700 patients showed that treatment with only steroids improved patient outcomes, while use of only antiviral agents did not.

"There was not hint of any effect of antivirals when given by themselves, but when given with steroids, they appeared to augment the effect of steroids," Guyatt said.

D'Uva said that given her experience, that news is promising.

"You can get to the point where you can talk to people and not worry that your eye might shut on you or you might look a little silly," D'Uva said.

Researchers noted that further studies are needed to definitively establish the benefit of the combined drug treatment.

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  • dontbringdownthemonk Sep 2, 2009

    I had Bell’s in 02. The effect only lasted about 3 weeks which for me was about enough time for me to research and find out a ton of things about it. I attended an Oriental medicine seminar a few weeks ago where treatment for Bell’s was mentioned. I quizzed about how it was able to treat the condition knowing from my research that the majority of people get better even without treatment in 3-6 weeks anyway. I was wondering if acupuncture was just a placebo. Most got better in 3-4 weeks which was about what I expected but where he began to differ was that he treated people who did not get better. He had treated people that have gone through the various regiments of , drugs and in my case simply time and did not get back to 100 percent. People that have given up hope and with his treatment were able to return most if not all of the function through acupuncture treatments. To me I believe acupuncture helps relieve the nerve blockage after the virus or condition has run its cours