For many, facial paralysis can be devastating to daily function and self-esteem. Facial paralysis is when the facial muscles become weak – temporarily or permanently – sometimes causing the face to droop on one or both sides. It can be mild or severe, affecting a segment of the face or the entire structure.
Facial Paralysis Complications
Cosmetic concerns aside, facial paralysis can make it challenging or impossible to close the eye, swallow and/or speak. As a result, people affected are at risk of vision loss, malnutrition and depression if facial paralysis isn’t appropriately addressed.
Eye lubrication and swallow and speech therapy are enough if the paralysis is temporary. However, reanimation surgery is necessary if the condition is permanent (persistent paralysis). Facial paralysis treatments can elevate the face, protect the eye, facilitate swallowing and speaking by enabling better lip function and sometimes, restore natural facial movement.
Persistent versus Temporary Paralysis
Persistent paralysis can happen after a stroke, traumatic head injury or a facial neuroma (benign tumor) that grows on the seventh cranial nerve – the one that shuttles electrical signals from the brain to the facial muscles.
On the other hand, facial paralysis caused by infection or Bell’s Palsy is usually temporary because infection and inflammation are treatable. (Bell’s palsy causes inflammation in the seventh cranial nerve.) However, if nerve activity doesn’t resume within six to twelve months, the paralysis is likely permanent, and surgical intervention will be necessary.
Cosmetic Surgical Procedures for Persistent Facial Paralysis
Several cosmetic surgical procedures can restore the facial appearance and reanimate muscles. For example, a facelift or brow lift can help suspend droopy skin and muscles, while nerve grafting and muscle and tendon transfers can restore facial symmetry and animation. Grafting and transfers take nerves, tendons and muscles from other body parts and put them into the face, helping restore sensation so you can move and control your facial muscles again.
Other techniques include:
- Gold-weight placement for eyelid paralysis, in which the doctor puts a thin gold wafer into the upper eyelid to help it close. This protects the eye from drying out.
- Sling implants for static mouth closure that run from the cheekbone to the corner of the mouth. Being a static cosmetic procedure, this technique does not reanimate the muscles.
- Botox® injections can be used as a finishing touch to fine-tune any minor facial asymmetries that are too small to require invasive surgery.
There is Hope
Don’t let a droopy face get you down. There is hope to restore your expressions and facial features. Dr. Khosh is an expert in facial paralysis surgical treatments. Plus, he works closely with neurologists, ophthalmologists, cancer or ear surgeons and speech and swallow therapists to provide you with comprehensive care. So don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation.