By John Sudworth – BBC News, Shanghai
After a lifetime of pretty much doing what I told it to do, one half of my face has decided to go on strike. From the left side of my forehead to the left side of my chin, every one of my facial features is in complete, open mutiny. I can’t raise my left eyebrow. I can’t close my left eye. And when I try to smile, while the right side of my mouth still obligingly pulls itself into the requisite shape, the left side refuses to budge. The resulting expression turns out to be useless at signalling a friendly hello but it might come in handy if I ever decide to hold up a corner store.
Welcome to the strange world of a Bell’s palsy sufferer.
Bell’s palsy is not a great thing to happen to a TV reporter. That said, it’s not a great thing to happen to anyone who needs his or her face and from the many accounts I’ve seen online, plenty of people carry on with their daily lives. So I’ve decided that I will too.
And while I fully accept that my ailment might be about the least important bit of news out of China at the moment, writing about it here means there’s a ready explanation for any member of my global fan-base (you know who you both are) wondering why half my face doesn’t work when they see me on screen. But whatever my own reasons, this peculiar and fascinating ailment surely deserves a bit more of a mention – not least because the condition has quite a list of celebrity endorsements.
What is Bell’s palsy?
Scottish clinician Sir Charles Bell first identified the condition, which causes paralysis on one side of the face, in the 19th Century. Bell’s palsy disproportionately affects pregnant women and people with diabetes, flu, colds and other upper respiratory ailments. But scientists do not know why this group of people are more at risk. About one in 5,000 people develop Bell’s palsy every year. Most are aged 15-45.
In most cases, the symptoms – which tend to develop within 48 hours – begin to improve within weeks, but it can take months to fully recover.Both George Clooney and Sylvester Stallone are reported to be past sufferers and both recovered.
Read the rest of John’s interesting story here