Leading Facial Paralysis Expert Babak Azizzadeh, MD, FACS, Comments on Ironman Competitor’s Battle With Bell’s Palsy

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Dr. Babak Azizzadeh, Director of the Facial Paralysis Institute in Beverly Hills, discusses the causes of Bell’s palsy, facial paralysis, and the best treatment options.

Today Dr. Babak Azizzadeh of the Facial Paralysis Institute in Beverly Hills responded to the recent news that Ironman competitor Josh Minogue is suffering from facial paralysis from Bell’s palsy. The 26-year-old athlete initially thought he was having a stroke but then was subsequently diagnosed with Bell’s palsy. Bell’s palsy is a disorder that can cause facial paralysis due to swelling of the nerves that control the muscles that control facial movement. Minogue is currently taking medication and said that “it's one of those things where I just have to wait it out and hope it gets better."

“It’s important to diagnose Bell's palsy as early as possible and start treating the condition with steroids and antiviral therapy under the supervision of a medical professional,” Dr. Azizzadeh explained. “If symptoms do not resolve within 12 weeks, then a facial nerve expert should be consulted.”

Facial paralysis may be caused by a physical accident that produces temporal bone trauma, but a Bell’s palsy diagnosis is exclusively attributed to a viral inflammation. Recent research has shown that Bell’s palsy occurs when a virus (herpes simplex virus, HSV) gets reactivated in the bone behind the ear (temporal bone.) When the nerve gets reactivated and swollen, it ends up causing the nerve to essentially “shut down.”

“Josh commented that ‘half of his face looks like it has had Botox,’ which is interesting because Botox is actually an effective treatment options for those who suffer from Bell’s palsy, partial facial paralysis, or synkinesis,” Dr. Azizzadeh said. “The injections facilitate facial symmetry and can be used in conjunction with neuromuscular retraining to improve facial movement.”

Botox is a protein derived from botulinum toxin. It relaxes unwanted muscle movements and reduces tension in areas of the face that are hyperactive due to synkinesis. Treatment will depend on the level of facial paralysis and synkinesis, as well as a patient’s specific desires.

“If it is determined that surgery is the best option for a patient, selective neurolysis is the most advanced option,” Dr. Azizzadeh said. “The procedure releases the muscle that prevents an upward smile motion and reducing the actions of the nerves that are blocking the smile mechanism.”

Since his extensive and prestigious training at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Azizzadeh has helped hundreds of people with varying degrees of facial paralysis. Dr. Azizzadeh is the director of the Facial Paralysis Institute and one of the leading figures in the field of Facial Nerve Paralysis. Dr. Azizzadeh has been recognized for his work on several occasions, and has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and countless other media outlets.

Dr. Azizzadeh is trained in Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, as well as Head & Neck Surgery, giving him a distinctive insight into facial nerve function and facial aesthetics. Dr. Azizzadeh also has extensive training in microsurgical facial reconstruction, which is often required for the treatment of people who are born with facial paralysis.

For more information, contact the Facial Paralysis Institute at (310) 657-2203.

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