Tainan Hospital traditional Chinese medicine doctor Teng Chia-ming (鄧佳明) said work-related stress might be causing facial paralysis, citing the case of a small-business owner surnamed Huang (黃), who suffered from chronic tiredness associated with overwork and woke one day to find her face contorted and that she had a loss of facial control.
Huang’s condition greatly improved after three weeks of medication and acupuncture, Teng said.
Huang, 57, experienced an episode of vertigo one night, but ignored the unease and went to sleep, only to wake the next day unable to properly control her eyes and mouth, which affected her ability to pronounce words clearly, Teng said.
An irregular lifestyle and work-related stress can weaken the immune system, which can lead to facial paralysis caused by acute facial nerve inflammation, among other disorders, Teng said.
Facial palsy involves the dysfunction of facial muscles, and patients can develop several symptoms overnight, including numbness on one side of the face, difficulty with facial movements and bizarre facial expressions, he said.
Other symptoms include the disappearance of smile lines and wrinkles on the forehead, inability to completely close the eye on the affected side, blurred enunciation and a drooping mouth, he said.
In rare cases, patients might suffer from concurrent onset of migraine, loss of taste, poor sleep or pain behind the ear, Teng added.
Clinical observation suggests that patients with facial paralysis are usually exposed to excessive work-related stress, especially affecting planning staff and people in the business sector, Teng said.
Young and middle-aged people are at high risk of facial paralysis, and men and women are equally vulnerable to the condition, he said, adding that either side of the face could be affected.
Viral infection causes the majority of cases of peripheral facial nerve palsy, while other factors, including trauma, tumor and stroke, can also cause the condition, he said.
Depending on a person’s immune system, a viral infection might cause inflammation, swelling or loss of blood at structures controlled by a nerve, resulting in the patient’s loss of motor control over affected areas, he said.
Statistically speaking, the “golden time” to treat facial palsy falls within two weeks after the onset, and early treatment of the condition is usually more effective, Teng said.
Most patients show signs of improvement about two weeks after the onset of symptoms, he said, adding that Chinese medicine-aided treatment can accelerate recovery, with a nearly 90 percent full recovery rate.
Should the condition last more than three months, patients are less likely to achieve full recovery and might suffer from residual complications, Teng said.
Chronic conditions could be treated with extended acupuncture up to six months after the onset, he added.
Patients should avoid staying up late, overwork, stimulating foods and wind blowing directly onto the face, while keeping a balance to their mental state and a regular lifestyle, he said.
Facial exercises — such as pronouncing vowels loudly and clearly in front of a mirror — can be used to enhance facial motor control and blood circulation, he said.
Patients with facial paralysis are recommended to drink honeysuckle tea, which is conducive to alleviating pain during the initial stage of the disease, he said.
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