Can Stress Cause Bell’s Palsy? Exploring the Relationship

Posted by Andre Panossian, MD

People with a long history of chronic stress are more likely to suffer from nerve damage than those without, depending on the intensity of the stress

Stress can have a profound effect on our bodies, and one of the most visible signs of this is Bell’s Palsy. This condition affects the facial nerve, or cranial nerve VII, which controls facial movement and muscle tone in the face. While it is not yet known what causes Bell’s Palsy (some research says that it can be due to a viral infection) there is evidence to suggest that stress may be a contributing factor. In this article, we will explore the potential relationship between stress and Bell’s Palsy, as well as its effects on facial muscles and facial palsy.

Bell’s Palsy as a Result of Stress

It is believed that stress can be a contributing factor to Bell’s Palsy, as it can cause damage to the facial nerve and lead to facial weakness. The severity of the nerve damage depends on how long and how intense the stress has been. People who live a continuous stress-filled life are more likely to experience this health condition than those who do not.

The effects of stress on Bell’s Palsy can range from mild to severe depending on the severity of the nerve damage. In some cases, people may experience only mild symptoms such as drooping eyelids or difficulty smiling. However, in more severe cases, people may experience complete paralysis of one side of their face due to extensive damage to the facial nerve. Regardless of the severity, it is important for people with Bell’s Palsy to seek medical attention immediately in order to prevent further complications from arising.

Being stressed weakens your immune system

Prolonged stress can have a debilitating effect on one’s immune system; depending on the individual, some might be more vulnerable than others. When in a stressed state, any existing illness that was previously dormant will seize an opportunity to become active due to impaired immunity. This can range from herpes virus (causing cold sores) to a bacterial infection located in the ear. Moreover, this suppressed body defense might potentially lead to facial palsy due to its weakened defenses.

High levels of stress can cause vascular spasms

Due to stress, involuntary spasms of the blood vessels may occur. Everyone is aware that muscles are capable of contracting when confronted with pressure. Therefore, when we are very frightened, our complexion may become pale. This is because the muscles within the blood vessels constrict, impeding the flow of oxygen to our facial nerve and causing damage. Lack of oxygen due to constricted blood vessels impedes oxygen delivery to the facial nerve resulting in its deterioration.

When blood vessels are blocked, oxygen cannot reach the facial nerve, which can damage it over time
Stress can cause the blood vessels to spasm, as people are aware that muscles react to pressure by contracting

Symptoms of Stress Related to Bell’s Palsy

1. Facial Paralysis

Facial paralysis is one of the most common symptoms associated with Bell’s Palsy. It occurs when the facial nerve is damaged due to severe stress. This damage can cause facial muscles to become weak and unable to move properly. Common symptoms of facial paralysis include drooping eyelids, difficulty smiling, and an inability to close one eye completely. In more severe cases, people may experience complete paralysis on one side of their face due to severe damage to the facial nerve.

2. Drooping Eyelids & Difficulty Closing Eyes

Drooping eyelids and difficulty closing eyes are common symptoms of Bell’s Palsy caused by physical stress. If you experience these symptoms, it is important to visit an eye doctor as soon as possible. Eye infections can cause facial palsy, so it is important to rule out any underlying conditions before diagnosing Bell’s Palsy. Physical stress can also cause excessive dryness in the eyes, causing drooped eyelids and difficulty closing them at night. An eye doctor may recommend using artificial tears or lubricating ointments to help moisture loss and improve the symptoms.

3. Pain & Pressure Around The Face & Neck

Mild pain in the face or neck is often the first sign that something is wrong, and it can be caused by chronic stress or over-tensed muscles. This mild pain can quickly become more severe, with sharp pains radiating throughout the entire body. In some cases, these pains may become so intense that they cause difficulty in speaking or eating. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible in order to prevent further complications from arising.

In addition to facial and neck pain, chronic stress can also cause tension headaches or migraines. These headaches are usually accompanied by tightness in the muscles around the head and neck, causing discomfort and even paralysis if left untreated. It is important to recognize the signs of stress-related Bell’s Palsy early to prevent any long-term damage from occurring.

4. Changes in Mental Health

Changes in mental health can be a symptom of Bell’s Palsy, especially when it is caused by stress. People with Bell’s Palsy may experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues due to the physical symptoms they are experiencing. It is important to seek help from a mental health professional if you are feeling overwhelmed or having difficulty coping with your diagnosis. Recovery time for Bell’s Palsy can vary greatly depending on the severity of the condition and how quickly treatment is sought. However, it is important to remember that recovery from both physical and mental symptoms can take time and patience.

5. Loss Of Taste

Since the facial nerve is damaged due to severe stress, there is a decrease in the sense of taste. The most common cause of this loss of taste is dry mouth, caused by dehydration or an imbalance in the function of glands. A dry mouth can lead to a decrease in saliva production, which can reduce the ability for food particles to reach the taste buds and be detected. Additionally, dry mouth can increase bacteria growth on the tongue, further reducing one’s ability to detect flavors.

In order to prevent a loss of taste, it is important to stay hydrated and maintain good oral hygiene habits. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help keep your mouth moist and reduce bacteria growth on your tongue. Additionally, brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing regularly will help remove any food particles that may have been left behind.

Stress that is prolonged can significantly weaken an individual's immune system; some people are more prone to this than others
Increased stress levels can cause bell’s palsy by manifesting pre-existing illnesses which were once dormant, such as ear infections

Tips for Managing Stress to Prevent Bell’s Palsy

  • Exercise regularly to reduce stress levels.
  • Practice deep breathing and mindfulness techniques.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants.
  • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Spend time in nature or doing activities that bring joy.
  • Practice yoga or other forms of relaxation exercises.
  • Take regular breaks throughout the day to relax and unwind.
  • Get plenty of sleep each night to help reduce stress levels.
  • Listen to calming music or nature sounds to help relax your mind and body.
  • Connect with friends and family members who can provide emotional support.
  • Participate in activities that promote positive thinking, such as journaling or meditation.
  • Seek professional help if needed, such as a therapist or counselor.

Schedule a consultation

Learn more about the best facial paralysis treatment in Pasadena. Bell’s palsy specialist Dr. Andre Panossian is ready to help you. Schedule a facial paralysis consultation with us to discuss all your options before making a decision. Call 626-765-6885 today to make an appointment with our welcoming staff.

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