Our ‘Imagine’ video was created to raise awareness with the general public and health professionals about facial paralysis. For anyone seeking advice and support, please visit our support pages. This is our transcription page for those who may have difficulty hearing.
Imagine if you couldn’t close your eyes.
Imagine if your mouth was hard to control.
Imagine if your smile was different.
Fact: People with Facial Palsy face these difficulties every day.
Vanessa Venables, Principal Speech and Language Therapist in Facial Rehabilitation: “Facial palsy has a tremendous effect on people’s function: speaking, eating, drinking, blinking – all of those things that we never even think about.”
Janet Jutsum, Patient: “You’re very conscious of one side of your face feeling like a piece of wood, there’s absolutely no sensation there. It’s one of those nightmares you can’t come out of. It goes on and on and on.”
Fact: Some people are born with facial palsy. It can also be the result of illness or accident.
Vanessa: “Anyone can be affected by facial palsy: the young the old men and women alike. Nobody really knows when it’s going to strike.”
Charles Nduka, Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon: “You can be born with it. Or one may acquire it due to a number of causes: either an operation that’s caused damage to the nerve; tumours which may develop on the nerve or adjacent to the nerve that compress it and damage it in that way; or through injury. But the commonest cause that people know of is Bell’s Palsy, and this is where the facial nerve stops working suddenly.”
Fact: Facial palsy can have a dramatic effect on how people feel about themselves.
Janet: “The most obvious thing is that I can’t smile. But equally, I can’t look angry either. I have one expression.”
Vanessa: “People who have facial palsy lose a lot of the subtly of communication because they are no longer able to smile. And if you think of how many different ways you might smile in a day and then to suddenly find that you can’t even smile at all, it’s very dramatic for the person.”
Charles: “Because of the way they look, they often withdraw from going out, from socialising, and as a result of that they often can feel very alone.”
Janet: “One classic example is when we were invited to a wedding of a friend. Because I didn’t know most of the people who were going to be there, I really didn’t feel that I wanted to go to it. I didn’t want to be in a group of people smiling at the camera when I can’t.”
Fact: Many patients are denied treatment.
Vanessa: “Historically, it’s been quite difficult for people with facial palsy to get access to treatment on the NHS. This is partly because across the country services are very variable.”
Charles: “One of the most frustrating things I find as a surgeon trying to help patients with facial palsy is the view amongst many health professionals and management boards in the NHS that this condition is a cosmetic one. It isn’t cosmetic; this is one about function: function of closing ones eye; the ability to smile; to drink without dribbling; and also to express emotion. These are vital and pivotal functions of being human.”
Fact: Many doctors are unaware of the treatment options available.
Janet: “I was referred by my GP who was very very proactive. I have heard of other people who have had to wait a lot lot longer or who’s GPs just don’t know about it at all.”
Vanessa: “The first thing that people find difficult is accessing information so if your GP or physician is very well informed that can really support a patient in the early stages of diagnosis.”
Imagine if there was a charity devoted to facial palsy…
Fact: Facial Palsy UK is the only charity solely dedicated to helping people with facial palsy.
Vanessa: “The Facial Palsy UK Charity is going to be tremendously helpful for people with facial palsy. The website will offer patients and professionals lots of information about a wide range of the different causes of facial palsy. Importantly for patients, there’ll be access to an online forum and there’ll also be support networks setup across the country so that people can meet and share their stories and exchange information.”
Charles: “We can all be affected by facial palsy. Sadly, the condition isn’t really on the medical radar and there isn’t enough research at the moment so treatments are still behind where they should be in my opinion. I hope that through support for this charity more patients will be helped; there’ll be better support; better education of health professionals and hopefully some cures in the future.”
Face the facts. Support Facial Palsy UK today.
Last reviewed: 27-11-2016 || Next review due: 27-11-2018