Bell's palsy is a unilateral,

Bell's palsy is a unilateral,

which means a one-sided,
facial weakness or paralysis.

It's a disorder
that affects the facial nerve.

People who are slightly more vulnerable

are pregnant women in
the last trimester of their pregnancy,

people with diabetes

and people who have just recovered
from influenza

or a respiratory tract infection.

When I first looked in the mirror

I could see that my mouth
wasn't symmetrical any more

and that I wasn't able to close my mouth
on the one side,

but I could also see

that my cheek seemed to be dropping
as I was looking in the mirror,

so I wasn't really sure
what was happening at that stage.

Typically the onset of symptoms
is sudden,

but by sudden that can mean
over several hours,

peaking at around 48 to 72 hours.

There isn't a categorical cause
for facial palsy or Bell's palsy

and evidence suggests
that it's to do with a viral infection

and that virus is known
as herpes simplex type 1

or herpes simplex type 2.

Facial palsy will only affect numbness
and weakness in the face,

not in any other part of the body,

so if you're feeling numbness
and weakness down your arm and leg,

then it is not Bell's palsy .

(Helen) I went to see my GP

and she was able to discuss with me

options around taking medication
that might help.

The GP will probably prescribe
a steroid, usually prednisolone,

and there's some evidence to suggest

that this helps reduce the inflammation

and inhibit the course
or the progression of the disorder.

He may also prescribe antivirals.

They do need to be given within 72 hours
of onset of the symptoms,

so get yourself down to the GP
as soon as possible.

The most important thing is while you're
in the acute stage, the early stage,

the health of your eye
is of the utmost importance.

The paralysis meant I had no movement
at all in the right side of my face,

so I wasn't able to close my eye

and at night I had to tape that down
to try and protect it.

I also used artificial tears
so that the eye wouldn't dry out.

At first I was constantly
looking in the mirror,

desperate to see some sort of change.

It really was just a case of waiting.

I started to feel
some sort of tightening in my face

and then very small twitching
just under my eye.

The majority of patients, that's
approximately 80 per cent of patients,

will recover within two to three months.

By recover
I mean a virtually complete recovery.

If symptoms persist
beyond two to three months,

then recovery is much more variable

as to whether you're going to make
a complete recovery

or whether you're going to make
a partial good recovery

or whether you're going to have
more moderate or severe problems.

It was a very gradual process
when things started to improve.

The first movement then
was around my mouth

and as I tried to smile

I could see that the corner of my mouth
was rising slightly.

My general advice
to people with Bell's palsy

is if they're not experiencing full
recovery within two to three months,

they should ask to be referred
to a facial rehabilitation therapist,

who may be a speech therapist
or a physiotherapist,

who will give you some stretches
to lengthen out your face,

some relaxation exercises
to reduce the stiffness

and some training
on how to learn to move your face

in a balanced, coordinated way.

Things have moved on
and I'm probably now the only one

that's aware
of any of the residual symptoms.