Darren, 43, found Bell’s palsy a frightening and stressful experience, partly because no one could tell him what to expect. Darren kept a diary, which he hopes may help other sufferers through their illness.
I have tea as normal at about 7p.m; notice a metallic like taste to it. I start to feel a little under the weather so go to bed at 9 p.m.
Wake up at about 4 a.m. feeling numb to the face; ignore it. Wake again three hours later, my face completely numb: the right side is paralysed – including forehead, eye, cheek, nostril, lips and neck. I cannot drink without spilling; my eye will not close; my speech is slurred. It feels like I went to the dentist and had an aesthetic injection to the right side of my face. After calling the emergency services, I’m in hospital by 9 a.m. I’m diagnosed with Bell’s palsy and released from hospital at noon with steroid treatment.
In the evening I still have the same symptoms but I notice that I cry when I eat, and my right eye is getting very tired as it won’t close. The left of my face aches as it compensates for the non-moving right. Time for bed; I’m shattered. Don’t sleep well as the eye being fixed open is a killer. I try to tape it down; it doesn’t really work. I fall asleep at about 4 a.m.
I call my GP to arrange a check-up. Symptoms are all the same, but with added hearing loss to the right, and twitching and flickering to the right eye, also very weepy.
Second full day of Bell’s palsy. No change. The worst is the eye not closing; it’s starting to play hell with me. It feels sore; I get headache. Eating and drinking are still a pain.
Day 3: Symptoms have worsened, with more paralysis to the right side of my forehead, and a slight heavy and numb feeling to the right arm. As it is Sunday, I call NHS Direct to report the changes. They book me an appointment after lunch at the local walk-in centre.
At the centre, I have a battery of tests with the doctor. She releases me after discussing my case with the on-call neurologist at the hospital. He suggests I’m placed on aspirin, as there may be a chance of me suffering a minor stroke.
Whilst waiting for my notes, I’m called back in. Change of plan: I am now advised to go to hospital for more tests. I go and see the neurologist. My blood tests from Thursday are also reviewed; I’m advised there is no stroke risk after all, it’s just that Bell’s palsy has got worse – hopefully before it improves. I stop the aspirin after the initial dose given at the clinic.
Day 4: No change, the right side of my face is still fully paralysed, although I have a twitch to the right top eyelid, and no numbing of the arm today. I slept better last night after finding a way to tape down the eye.
Day 5: Same, but no worse.
Day 6: A few eye twitches, nothing more.
Day 7: No real changes. I feel slight twinges in my bottom lip, on and off, all day.
Day 8: No signs of improvement. GP appointment; he gives me an increased dose of steroids for a further four days, taking me to the full 14 days course. (This is the maximum they like to give before potential complications from long-term use.)
Day 11: No change for the past three days.
Day 12: Slight movement to lower lip and cheek, but barely noticeable. The psychological effects of Bell’s palsy start to set in; all I can think about is the future ‘like this’. My work would be affected, as I meet people and give presentations on a daily basis: I couldn’t/wouldn’t do it looking like this.
Day 13: Minor changes, including a little movement to the right cheek and a little less feeling contorted around the upper and lower lip. All other issues remain. Spoke with the doctor today.
Day 14: No changes to symptoms today, though hearing is a little clearer. First day without steroids. I could not get GP appointment until 21st October. I’m booked for a phone call on the 6th October.
Day 15: Some slight movement to cheek and lip, quite a few twinges to lower eyelid and upper and bottom lip throughout the day. I think I may have the start of a cold sore to the left side of my mouth. I’ve been feeling a little peculiar today, a bit sick with stomach and chest pain, similar to indigestion. It may be the aftermath of the steroids.
Day 16: No real change; still lots of twinges and twitching to eye and mouth. As expected, I woke with a cold sore, just to add to the bloody nightmare, ha! I’m feeling better today; yesterday I think the pills got the better of me and I felt unwell in the early evening. I must keep an eye on the cold sore so that it doesn’t spread to my ears and eyes, as this is what can apparently happen?
Day 17: Slight improvement to the lips and cheek, very slow progress. My eye is getting a little looser and if I concentrate, I can almost close it, but it won’t stay closed. Hearing and taste also improving, taste almost entirely back. Cold sore still active. Nostril starting to recover, top lip still some way to go, bottom lip is almost back. Neck muscle still not working. Less twitches and twinges today, mostly to the lower eyelid. Forehead/eyebrow has slight movement. I still can’t smile, but it’s better than it was.
Day 18: Continued slight improvement. I didn’t sleep at all last night, was very restless. Upper lip, nose, neck and eye are still reluctant to sort themselves out. Cold sore still active but not spreading. Hearing almost back, and taste back fully. Less twitching, but still there. I can now close my eye without help but it will not stay closed so I’m still taping it down to sleep; still not blinking.
Day 19: I managed for the first time last night to sleep without taping my eye; it felt great. The cold sore is now dead. I had a headache and earache all of last night to the left and it has stayed with me for the day, moving to the top of the head and tonight down the right side. I’m still not blinking. Nose, forehead and top lip stay paralysed.
Day 20: Much the same today.
Day 21: It’s my birthday. I had a call from the GP this morning; he was pleased with my progress. Now we need to let the body heal. I would say I’ve got 60 per cent function back so far. I can now close my eye voluntarily, which makes a big difference; I’m still not able to blink; my taste and hearing are almost back. Nostril is still numb and I can’t smile yet, but it has improved a lot; eating and drinking are easier now. Movement to the forehead is slowly coming back, so my face is no longer lopsided. To look at me you wouldn’t guess what happened; it’s not until you watch my facial expressions that you would notice. My speech has also improved. A bit more time may improve things further, but I could still end up with bits of paralysis for life. I can cope with what I have; it’s just the blinking that’s annoying now.
No change yesterday or today.
Slight improvement to brow. I’m now drinking without a straw.
Slight improvement to lip and nostril, eye still not blinking but seems to be improving.
No change for the past three days.
Day 30: Eye improving slightly.
Neck muscle almost back, eye continues to improve and more movement to nose.
Day 40: I’m almost fully recovered. I’m still getting clicking and popping to the ear, and I have a little loss of movement to the top lip and around the nose. The neck muscle has now returned.
Day 46: I’m back at work. I experience minor twitching to the eye, but other than that I’m pretty much recovered.
I’ve been suffering from vertigo every day for almost two months; it’s now under control after medication.
I have been tested and diagnosed with tinnitus. But I can live with these two ailments rather than Bell’s palsy. I found that it’s the psychological effects which harm the most. Whilst my paralysis lasted only a few months, it seemed like a lifetime to me.
Last reviewed: 22-10-2016 || Next review due: 22-10-2018