Bell's Palsy is caused by the inflammation of the seventh cranial nerve (or cranial VII as some call it). No one is really sure what causes the inflammation in the first place, but it is thought by most people to be some type of virus.
The nerve (actually a bundle of about 6000 (mostly?) motor neurons) comes out from a small tube around the area below the ear and then branches off to the facial muscles. When it gets inflamed, it tries to expand inside the tube, but runs out of room, and the nerve cells get damaged and have to heal themselves. The damage to the nerve prevents signals from the brain stem (where the nerve originates) from getting to the muscles in the face causing the half of the face so affected to be 'frozen' in a neutral expression.
The affected segment of the nerve is about 40 millimeters (1 and a half inches) long, and the nerve normally regenerates at a rate of 1 to 2 millimeters a day. Recovery time varies from 3 to 6 weeks, to 2 years. Supposedly, most people make adequate recoveries by 2 months.
On Friday, January 23, 2004, I got myself a case of Bell's Palsy. I didn't recognize it on that first day because I've never had Bell's before. Instead, I thought that the tightness in the right side of my face was just the result of my being tired. In fact, on that first day, few of the many people that saw me noticed anything unusual.
The next morning, the tightness had still not gone away. The tightness I noticed the day before was actually the side of my face that was not affected by Bell's trying to compensate for the lack of movement on the side that was affected. After doing the obligatory search on google for my symptoms 'half face paralysis symptoms', I had a good idea of what I had, but I still went to my family doctor to confirm it. At 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 24, I was officially diagnosed with Bell's Palsy.
Symptoms of Bell's Palsy vary widely between people. Mine were relatively minor, but a cousin who also had Bell's was hit quite hard. Throughout the progression of the condition from the beginning of the degeneration to the beginning of the recovery, I did not lose feeling in the affected half of my face.
My symptoms gradually increased throughout the day on Friday, gradually progressing to a noticeable loss of facial movement on Friday evening. The first sign that something was wrong was tingling on the inside of my cheek when I ate breakfast and lunch. By early evening, I was noticing a lopsidedness to my face. At about 8:00 p.m., speaking was noticeably affected with slurring and hissing of some words as I lost voluntary control of lip movements. At 9:00 p.m., the first astute observer noticed that I looked different: the working side of my face looked swollen - probably because it was trying to overcompensate for the non-working side of my face.
The next morning, I thought that I was doing a bit better, but in fact I had lost the ability to independently close my eye. I had to manually close my eyelid with my finger to keep my eye from drying out. I thought that I was able to raise my eyebrow and forehead, but in fact I couldn't. Voluntary muscle control continued to decrease slowly and sporadically as at times I actually thought that I was getting better. By Saturday night, most of…