Bell's palsy is an idiopathic condition, which means the the cause of the disorder is unknown. Its possible causes are subject to speculation, and stress is among the suspects. Does stress cause Bell's palsy? The short answer is "no," but the stress may be related to the neurological problem.
What Is Bell's Palsy?
Bell's palsy is paralysis of the face not related to stroke, infection or other known causes. While the specific cause is unknown, researchers know that the cranial nerve VII is affected. This nerve controls:
- Most facial muscles
- Some salivary glands
- Tear glands (lacrimal glands)
- Tiny muscles inside the ear that diminish loud noises
When the nerve suffers irritation, it isn't able to function properly. The problem manifests in the inability to move some of the muscles in the face. It's well established that the conditions is idiopathic, but researchers are exploring possible causes; some of which have interesting associations with stress.
Does Stress Cause Bell's Palsy Indirectly?
Stress can cause the body to experience unpleasant symptoms, and chronic stress can wreak havoc on a person's health. Anxiety can have a profound impact on the nervous system as well. Stress is associated with a number of health problems, that run the gamut from seizures to high blood pressure.
When you consider the effects of stress on the body, making a connection between Bell's palsy and stress is possible. The key is exploring the possible causes of the condition.
Possible Causes of Bell's Palsy
Different theories exist about the source of the neurological problem, and some things that may trigger the paralysis have associations with stress. In theory, stress may cause Bell's palsy indirectly because it can trigger conditions that irritate the cranial nerve VII, which leads to paralysis.
Bell's palsy may be linked to the herpes simplex virus. Just as long term stress can trigger herpes outbreaks, it may trigger a virus that has remained dormant. This virus, in turn, may irritate the cranial nerve VII, which causes the symptoms of Bell's palsy. The theory is intriguing, but more research is necessary to make a definite link.
Types of Stressors
Different types of stressors can reactivate a dormant virus. Environmental stress is under scrutiny as a possible trigger. According to Health Central, patients often cite exposure to cold as a cause. This trigger remains speculative.
Physical stress can be a factor as well, and people who have diabetes have a slightly greater risk for facial paralysis, as do pregnant women, according to Health Communities' Neurology Channel. Physical stress may include trauma and tumors.
Research and Treatment
Bell's palsy is an idiopathic condition that is still under investigation. Researchers haven't found stress to be a direct cause of facial paralysis, but doctors and patients recognize that the condition causes stress. The inability to control facial muscles is embarrassing, and it can be a great source of anxiety.
Individuals experiencing the symptoms of Bell's palsy should contact their physicians immediately. The symptoms are related to other serious medical problems that require prompt attention. If stress is so overwhelming that thoughts of physical ailments are ongoing, it is necessary to talk to a professional for guidance.