Facial paralysis is a condition where one or both sides of the face are either very weak or completely immobile due to the malfunction of the facial nerve. Not surprisingly that this condition causes not only multiple functional problems, but also carries with it a tremendous psychological impact. Individuals with facial paralysis are unable to fully close the eye (on the paralyzed side) which can lead to the dryness of the cornea with loss of vision and even blindness, suffer from excessive tearing due to lower eyelid weakness, have difficulty eating and speech problems due to lip weakness, and suffer from facial asymmetry and disfigurement.
There have been described over 80 potential causes of facial paralysis, however Bell's palsy, trauma, infections and neoplasms account for almost 80% of the cases.
Given a significant functional and psychological burden on the patients, it is very important to be able to help individuals with this condition improve their appearance and regain lost functions.
Theoretically, the ideal facial reanimation should try to achieve: facial symmetry at rest, symmetry with voluntary and involuntary motions, and restoration of the functions of the eye, nose, and mouth without compromising function and appearance of other areas of the face.
There are multiple surgical and non-surgical procedures available to help patient with facial paralysis. Among non-surgical modalities, Botox treatment and physical therapy are the most commonly used ones. Botox helps to improve facial symmetry; it also helps with facial ticks and abnormal facial movements (synkenisis) by relaxing certain muscles causing the problem.
Surgery remains the mainstay treatment for long-standing facial paralysis. Some surgical procedures are aimed at restoring facial movements and function by either using patients own non-paralyzed muscles (such as temporalis muscle), bringing muscles and nerves from other areas of the body in the form of a free flap, or restoring the integrity of the facial nerve itself (if possible). In addition, there are many adjunctive surgical procedures to help the eye, such as gold or platinum upper eyelid weight insertion to improve eye closure as well as tightening of the lower lid to improve its support and reduce tearing. Other adjunctive procedures help correct brow ptosis (browlift), facial laxity (facelift), and facial asymmetry (facial slings).
Dr. Ovchinsky has many-year experience of successfully helping the patients with facial paralysis to regain their lost identity and function. If you are suffering from this debilitating condition and in need of assistance, please call Plastic Surgery of Short Hills to arrange for in-depth consultation.