Infant Bell’s Palsy Can Be Temporary or Permanent
Learn more about facial nerve palsy
Infant Bell’s palsy, also called facial nerve palsy, occurs when the nerve that manages facial movements is damaged during the birthing process. Trauma is the most common cause of this form of palsy. The majority of cases cure on their own. However, some cases remain permanent in children, with symptoms persisting on one side of the face. Bell’s palsy in infants can occur through the negligent use of medications, rough treatment of the child or mother during labor or delivery, or the improper use of instruments during delivery.
Symptoms of infant Bell’s palsy
A visual observation of a baby crying can help indicate whether damage has occurred to the seventh cranial nerve – this is the nerve that is responsible for controlling facial movements. Most infant Bell’s palsy cases affect the mouth and nearby muscles. However, more serious cases can affect the entire side of the child’s face, preventing the child from opening or closing an eyelid or exercising any muscle on that side of the face. When the child cries, Bell’s palsy may be suspected if the child’s face appears uneven or if the child exhibits facial expressions. If these signs exist, it is important to have a doctor examine the child for the possibility of Bell’s palsy.
Additional symptoms of this condition include:
- Smiling on one side only
- Excessively dry or tearing eyes
- Reduced or completely lost sense of taste
- Enhanced sensitivity of the ears to sound
Tests to confirm if my baby has Bell’s palsy
Bell’s palsy symptoms are often easy to diagnose. However, physicians may also utilize various tests to identify if the condition exists – these tests evaluate a baby’s sight, hearing, and sensory perception.
Additional testing may utilize a CT scan or MRI to evaluate the nerves within the muscles. An electroencephalogram (EEG) may be used to detect neurological and electrical movement in the nerves to ensure they are conveying signals properly.
What causes Bell’s palsy?
The exact cause of infant Bell’s palsy is not known. Studies have indicated that the condition is caused by cold sores or the herpes virus that is passed to the unborn baby from the mother who has an infection. Bell’s palsy has also been connected to respiratory infections such as the common cold and flu.
So, in addition to birth injury, a range of viruses can have potential links to Bell’s palsy. They include:
- Chickenpox and shingles
- Adenovirus and other respiratory viruses
- Cold sores and genital herpes
- Hand-foot-and-mouth-disease (coxsackievirus)
A pregnant mother infected with any of the above-mentioned viruses runs the risk of having her baby acquiring Bell’s palsy after birth.
Many medical professionals believe that birth injuries can instigate trauma to the facial nerve and surrounding bone causing the development of Bell’s palsy. Additional traumas that may cause Bell’s palsy include:
- Surgical wounds in the face
- Bone fractures
- Head trauma
- Brain stem injuries
When birth trauma due to a difficult delivery results in Bell’s palsy and other possible nerve damage, the following factors may be involved:
- A large baby (they occur with women who deliver post-term or have diabetes)
- Longer than normal pregnancy or labor
- Use of forceps
- Use of Pitocin which leads to labor and stronger contractions
- Use of epidural anesthesia
Despite all of the causes mentioned above, certain occurrences of Bell’s palsy do not have a known cause.
Preventing Bell’s palsy
It is the responsibility of the doctor to ensure that maternal infections such as the herpes virus are not conveyed from the mother to the baby.
To avoid hurting the baby, doctors are often hesitant to give the little one medication in order to treat a virus. However, this may become necessary with Bell’s palsy due to the fact that the illness consists of nerve damage and brings about a form of paralysis – something that is very painful and dangerous for babies.
If your baby acquired Bell’s palsy due to a birth injury, you have the legal right to pursue compensation. Birth injuries leading to this condition can occur due to the negligent actions of a doctor, or other medical personnel, such as using vacuum or forceps assisted delivery, when the correct choice should have been a C-section. As well, negligence can occur when miscommunication takes place among the medical birthing team.
If your baby suffered an injury leading to Bell’s palsy during the process of childbirth, you may be able to recover compensation for your losses in the form of medical expenses and the pain and suffering you and your family have experienced.
Treating Bell’s palsy
Currently no medical cure for Bell’s palsy exists. However, there are treatment options available to mitigate the symptoms experienced by patients. Treatment plans must be developed on an individual basis due to the fact that each case of Bell’s palsy differs in its severity.
The following methods of treatment may be helpful in reducing the symptoms of Bell’s palsy depending on the nature of a particular case:
- Eye care. It is important for those with Bell’s palsy to use artificial tears or other prescribed ocular solutions in order to keep the eye moist. The iris must also be protected from debris such as pollen and dust that can scratch the cornea.
- Topical corticosteroids. Doctors can administer prednisone and other corticosteroid medicines to help mitigate swelling of the seventh cranial nerve, enabling it to fit within its designated space in the skull.
- Antiviral drugs. When one or more viral infections are responsible for the onset of Bell’s palsy, certain antiviral drugs such as Acyclovir (Zovirax) and valacyclovir (Valtrex) may be used to treat severe cases.
- OTC pain relief. Certain non-prescription analgesics such as infant acetaminophen can be administered to relieve some of the painful symptoms of infant Bell’s palsy. However, it is very important for the parent to consult with a physician before giving an infant any over-the-counter medication.
- Physical therapy. Atrophy of the facial muscles is a symptom of Bell’s palsy. Physical therapy in the form of exercising or massaging the infant’s facial muscles can be used to maintain stimulation of the facial nerve as well as muscle tone.
- In certain cases, surgeons may perform decompression surgery to lessen the pressure on the facial nerve. This is usually done by opening the bony corridor that contains the seventh cranial nerve in order to reduce the swelling so that the nerve can heal. However, it is a risky operation due to the fact that the patient may suffer an injury to the nerve and even permanent hearing loss.
When Bell’s palsy has an unknown cause, or goes undetected for quite some time, it may be difficult to claim compensation. The challenge is ascertaining whether the condition was caused by a birth injury or a pre-existing infection. If you are a parent who suspects that your child’s Bell’s palsy was caused by a birth injury, you can benefit from the investigative capabilities of an experienced birth injury lawyer.
These are many of the injuries our clients’ children have sustained
Claiming compensation for your baby’s injuries
At Crandall & Pera Law, we can determine if the doctor or other medical professionals acted with negligence or malpractice related to your baby’s condition. We can fight intelligently on your behalf and bring to bear the resources necessary to help you obtain any compensation to which you may be entitled. To set up a free case evaluation, call our teams in Ohio or Kentucky today at 877.955.0020 or send us a request through our contact form.