This is what my mouth looks like when I try to hide it.I woke up on a recent Thursday morning and, as usual, I caught up on some news for about an hour, and then jumped in the shower.
Like some amateur, I got soap in my eye while washing my face. That sucked. But things only got worse from there.
While I was brushing my teeth, toothpaste and spit spilled out of the side of my mouth. And that’s when I realised something was seriously wrong.
I started making some facial expression in the mirror, and the left side of my face not moving.
I was clearly in shock because my first thought was that the mirror was broken.
But as soon as that ridiculous thought left my mind, panic set in as I concluded I must be having a stroke.
However, that didn’t make any sense either because as far as I could tell, everything else was working fine.
Thank god for the the internet, because a google search for “left side of face not moving” yielded a dozens of pages that said this was not a stroke and that this was not the end of the world.
But they all said to seek medical attention right away.
I paged my doctor and left a message that my face wasn’t moving. Immediately, he called back and told me to come in as soon as possible.
My doctor and the internet both told me I had Bell’s palsy.
Bell’s palsy is a disorder of the facial nerve, or cranial nerve VII. Damage to this nerve causes weakness and sometimes complete paralysis of the facial muscles.
Symptoms start suddenly, but sometimes take two to three days to appear.
Around 30,000 to 40,000 Americans get it every year. Almost everyone you’ll talk to will tell you that they know or knew someone who had it.
The causes are unclear. Some believe it’s a middle ear infection. Some believe a virus is sometimes involved.
It’s not life-threatening, which is a good thing. And for most people, it’s not permanent.
The chief concern is damage to the eye because the eyelids usually don’t close all of the way and tear production is affected.
My doctor prescribed me with a heavy dose of prednisone (steroids) and valacyclovir (anti-viral) for a week. He also ordered me to get lubricating eye drops to protect my eye. He also referred me to a neurologist, who I saw a week later.
Ultimately, they both said I’d just have to give it time. Maybe a month or two before I’d notice some significant improvement.
Food doesn’t go in my mouth without hitting my face because my lips don’t open all of the way. Food also falls out of my mouth because my lips don’t close all of the way. Also, I bite my lips all of the time.
It’s exactly like when you come back from the dentist and your face is still processing the novacaine. Except, you can feel everything.
But that’s not too too bad, because I can afford to lose some weight.
My arms, legs, and everything else work fine.
Ultimately, things could be a whole lot worse. I still wake up every morning thinking that this whole thing was just some weird nightmare.
But for now, my optimism is reinforced by tiny improvements.
Here’s what my face is doing today, 16 days in.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.