Researchers believe that one of the major causes of most cases of Bell’s Palsy is actually the herpes simplex virus – or, the virus that causes the common cold sore.
Researchers were able to identify bits of herpes virus genes from the effected nerves and muscle tissues of some patients with Bell’s Palsy. This discovery has lead to hopes that antivirals will also be a great help in the treatment of Bell’s palsy patients. However, an antiviral on its own will not cure Bell’s palsy, as by the time the beginning symptoms present themselves, the facial nerves have already been damage.
However, this does not mean that those being treated with antivirals should give up hope. The antivirals have been proven to shorten the time that patients are affected by the symptoms and that they may even lessen the symptoms while the patient is coping with the condition.
This conjecture that the herpes simplex virus is connected with Bell’s palsy goes back as far as the 70s. In 1975 Dr. Adour, with Kaiser-Permanente Medical Center in California, reported that of 41 patients with Bell’s palsy that had been tested, all 41 patients came up as having antibodies to the herpes simplex virus in their blood. This finding proves that the patients had, in the past, been infected by this virus. However, in the comparison group, 35 out of 41 patients had the antibodies but had never had Bell’s palsy.
Bell’s palsy affects a surprising 40,000 Americans per year, with attacks being triggered by any number of things: dental extractions, diabetes, the flu, cold, upper respiratory infections, and even a draft of cold air. Symptoms tend to set in quickly, but then many patients will see a great improvement after the first two weeks with steady to complete recovery over the next few months. However, there are those patients who are affected for a lifetime.
However, while people can get cold sores multiple times without long lasting ill-effects, researchers say that Bell’s palsy will usually affect a person only once in their lifetime on average.