What is Facial nerve?
- The face muscles are connected and controlled by a nerve called the Facial nerve.
- These muscles control the expressions of face, the chewing muscles, the cheeks and also some sensations like hearing and taste.
- This facial nerve runs all the way from the brain to these muscles.
- When this nerve malfunctions, it becomes obvious with the child’s face becoming paralysed.
Why does this nerve get affected?
- The facial nerve has a complicated pathway from the brain to the muscles, running through tiny holes, ridges in the skull.
- Any infection or irritation of the nerve can cause it to swell up and malfunction.
What are the causes of the condition?
- The facial nerve is vulnerable to infection from viruses like the chicken pox, mumps and others.
- Following a viral attack, facial nerve palsy could appear within two week’s time since the infection.
- Occasionally, trauma to the nerve (forceps delivery in newborns), tumours or certain medications could cause the condition.
How does the child with this condition appear?
- Generally, the onset of the condition is sudden and the reaction is apparent as one side of a person’s face turns weak or numb.
- Children quickly complain of tingling or numbness on the weakened side of the face.
- There can be drooping (weakness) of mouth angle, hence the person resorts to excess salivation, dribbling from the mouth or express difficulty in chewing food.
- The child may be unable to close their eyes. Therefore, due to the prolonged opening of the eyes, there may be dryness or itching sensation.
- Paralysis could reduce or do away with the presence of any wrinkles on the forehead.
- Affected facial nerve could, in turn, affect the sensation of taste numbing certain areas of the child’s tongue.
What is the treatment for Facial Paralysis?
- Studies show that children often display quick prognosis and good response to treatments without any long-term residual problems.
- Steroid is administered for a week followed by a sustained reduction in the dosage.
- For suspected viral infections, antiviral medications like acyclovir/valacyclovir medications are used.
- For children experiencing itchiness or dryness in eyes, Methylcellulose Eye Drops is used.
- Occasionally, a surgery may be suggested to release the congested facial nerve.
The prognosis or improvement is seen relatively quickly over a period of 6 months in most children (as much as 90%).
Always see your doctor if your child presents with sudden paralysis of his facial muscles.