Botox is well known for consistently and effectively addressing cosmetic conditions like wrinkles, particularly dynamic ones around the eyes and forehead, due to repetitive movement of specific muscles when making expressions. However, it might be a surprise to learn that at Cosmetic Laser Dermatology in San Diego, our board-certified dermatologists use neuromodulator injections to also address medical concerns, such as facial muscle disorders.
Two such disorders are Bell’s palsy and synkinesis. Both are complex and patients who suffer either disorder often deal with cosmetic challenges as well as functional ones, including eating, breathing, swallowing, and speaking. These individuals want nothing more than relief from their pain and discomfort with the help of compassionate, expert dermatologists who have the knowledge to get it right the first time.
At Cosmetic Laser Dermatology in San Diego, we specialize in administering Botox injections, both cosmetically and medically. The skill required to administer the proper amount in the precise area as Bell’s palsy treatment to relieve muscle pain and discomfort takes years of specialized training and practical experience. Our board-certified dermatologists frequently give lectures around the world regarding life-changing injectables such as Botox.
What is Bell’s Palsy?
The most common manifestation of facial paralysis in the country, Bell’s palsy is named for the Scottish neurologist who discovered it (Sir Charles Bell). It is a condition that causes sudden facial paralysis or muscles weakness occurring on one side of the face. Yet, it is still rare— it is estimated that the disorder occurs in only 1 out of 5,000 Americans.
It is inaccurate to consider Bell’s palsy and general facial paralysis the same. Because both are complex and often seemingly identical conditions, doctors who are not careful or expertly trained in determining the causes of both conditions can make an improper diagnosis. This can be detrimental to treatment, recovery, and healing.
Facial paralysis, in general, can happen for a variety of reasons: a tumor, an injury, or inflammation of certain glands in the face or neck areas.
On the other hand, Bell’s palsy is caused by an inflamed facial nerve, which induces edema (swelling) in the nerve and prevents it from communicating with the brain and facial muscles in order to make the proper facial movements.
The cause of inflammation in this nerve is not clearly understood. However, it seems to be affected by a virus, which can bring on the disorder with unexpected speed. The virus causes quick swelling and dysfunction of the nerve. The result is near-immediate numbness and restricted movement, if not outright full paralysis.
What are the Known Risk Factors
Though the exact causes of the nerve inflammation that causes Bell’s palsy are not known, several risk factors have been determined:
- Lyme disease
- Genetics (a family member had it)
- A prior occurrence of Bell’s Palsy
- Acoustic neuroma (tumor)
The disorder can readily be treated. An overwhelming number of patients (estimated by some to be more than 85%) completely recover and have restored symmetry to their face. About 1 out of 10 patients will partially recover with a modicum of facial paralysis or weakness still remaining. Very few patients—maybe 1 out of 20—will not recover or, even worse, will develop synkinesis.
What is Synkinesis?
Facial synkinesis is the loss of control of facial muscles and nerves. Sometimes, the result is muscle movement patterns that are unusual. For example, instead of the eyes widening in delight while smiling, the eyes instead unexpectedly narrow due to muscle contractions.
This simultaneous yet abnormal movement of facial nerves and muscles occurs often in conjunction with Bell’s palsy because the latter can cause the nerves in the face to reconnect to the “wrong” muscles, resulting in unintended and usually unwanted simultaneous facial movements. This disconnect also can occur after an injury or facial nerve surgery.
Synkinesis should not be confused with general facial paralysis. Patients with good facial tone and visible, though limited, muscle movement probably have synkinesis, not facial paralysis. They are still able to display muscle movements on their face, but they are unable to control other, simultaneous movements.
Symptoms of facial synkinesis can also include the following:
- A narrowing of the eyes
- A dimpling of the chin
- Tightness in the cheeks
- Spasms in facial muscles
Finding Relief with Botox
Botox injections are a good treatment choice for many patients. In some cases, the symptoms of Bell’s palsy subside on their own in a matter of weeks or months. Botox injections can help relax the paralyzed facial muscles for temporary restoration of normal facial symmetry and appearance until the condition has resolved. It is important to note that the condition affects every patient uniquely. Some individuals may experience only mild symptoms that seem to vanish after two weeks, while others may be faced with a lifetime of severe muscle paralysis.
San Diego Botox injections are administered to either the paralyzed side or the unaffected side. If it’s the former, Botox as a Bell’s palsy treatment relaxes the tight facial muscles while restricting the spastic movement of other muscles due to synkinesis. If it’s the latter, the injections relax the muscles that have become too dominant, which creates a better, more balanced appearance.
The effects of Botox normally last 3-4 months and should be touched up every 4-5 months.
A Bell’s palsy treatment of only Botox injections is effective at helping relieve the pain and discomfort from this neuromuscular disorder; however, the injections are even more effective when combined with a neuromuscular physical therapy routine. Together, there is a better chance to restore facial muscle movement, optimize recovery, and reach desired goals.
Learn more about treating this neuromuscular disorder with Botox at medlineplus.gov
Contact San Diego’s Cosmetic Laser Dermatology to Learn More
Botox injections can safely deliver effective treatment and relief for patients with Bell’s palsy or synkinesis. To find out whether you or a loved one is a good candidate for treatment with Botox, contact Cosmetic Laser Dermatology in San Diego today. Contact us online or call (858) 943-2113.
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