By Thea Alberto-Masakayan, Yahoo! Southeast Asia
Three years ago, I woke up one July morning unable to move half of my face. I couldn't smile and I couldn't even shut my right eye. Parts of my face were twitching like mad and this heightened my fears that I may have Bell's palsy.
A visit to the doctor later revealed my hunch was right. I was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy, a rare nerve condition which leaves the patient unable to move facial muscles.
After some online research and several visits to the neurologist, I learned that Bell's Palsy isn't hereditary, nor is it contagious.
But to this day, experts have not determined what actually causes Bell's Palsy—for some it is spurred by the herpes zoster virus which attacks the nerve, other studies say it's related to stress and vitamin-B deficiency, but an old wives' tale would tell you it's "pasma."
So when Bell's Palsy turned up as one of the trending topics in Yahoo! Philippines Search and I heard that prominent broadcast journalist Bernadette Sembrano also had it, I felt it proper to share what I could to, in a way, help ailing Pinoys.
Bell's palsy 101
While I'm no medical expert, battling Bell's Palsy for almost two months helped me learn a few things about the disease. Here are a few:
• In my case, Bell's Palsy did not show specific symptoms. But, days before I was diagnosed, I had unbearable neck pain and continuous eye twitching.
• Prevention is always better than cure, so make sure that your immune system is strong. The virus attacks the vulnerable target. Make sure you have your daily dose of B-complex vitamins.
• Once affected, try to calm down. Go to the doctor right away. Panicking and later worrying about your "abnormal" appearance will do you no good. My neurologist said stress hinders nerve healing. Although it's tough not to feel bad about your unusual appearance, try to look at the brighter side: it's a self-limiting disease and it will heal in its own time.
• Protein-rich foods also help strengthen the affected muscles so take all the protein you can get.
• Undergo therapy as soon as you can. This will help relax the muscles.
• Be patient about doing your facial exercises. Although it may appear futile trying to move your face during the onset of the disease, giving your face some activity will speed up recovery.
• Relax. Life is too good for you to be stressed all the time.
Studies show only one out of 70 people will have Bell's palsy. But if you ever come across someone whom you think has it, try to lessen his/her burden by not staring at the unusual appearance.