The Bell's Palsy Tolls

April 29, 2009

So, Saturday my right eye was acting up. I mean, it was going absolutely bonkers. Well, it was the first weekend I'd had the windows open in a while and the pollen was nasty so I wasn't too surprised.

Then Sunday evening I realized my mouth wasn't closing right. Or more to the point, my lips weren't sealing themselves particularly tightly when I closed my mouth. But only on the right-hand side. And my hand and foot on that side were fine, and the eye still tracked OK.

No, I didn't have a stroke. I'd be kind of ticked off if I had -- no loss of motor skills and I can still speak. It would've been the lamest stroke ever.

What I have is Bell's Palsy. It's swelling of (or around) the nerves that control one side of the face. So my eye's upset because it's not closing all the way, and that's why the right side of my mouth is acting like I'm coming off Novocaine. They have me on Prednisone to reduce any swelling that might be causing the nerve annoyance, and an anti-viral called Doxyxycline because they think now that (maybe) it's caused by a virus ticking everything off. I have a gauze patch on my right eye to hold it shut and keep it from drying out, and to keep any junk from getting in it while it's slightly more vulnerable.

To their credit, both the nurse and the doctor went straight to Bell's from my symptoms. This tells me that it comes up at least moderately frequently either in medical school or in practice. I can almost see the sidebar in the medical textbooks: "Your patient with half a face not working but speaking coherently and otherwise healthy didn't have a stroke -- he has Bell's Palsy. Go ahead and tell him we don't know what causes it and give him these pills that might accomplish something."

It usually goes away on its own in a couple weeks. I the meantime I'm Mr. Depth Perception. Driving is actually OK because I have enough visual cues to figure out distance -- I can use the two-second rule, and how much of my windshield a car takes up, for example. Everything else, like getting my keys into the appropriate locks, and (to a degree) typing is a pain, because there isn't as much to help me out. And there's the minor problem of making sure I drink things properly so as not to dribble on myself.

So all of this means that, instead of working yesterday morning, I got to wait in line at the Urgent Care Clinic near my apartment (in fairness they're first-come-first-served, and since I wasn't spurting blood I didn't count as an emergency). After that copay I got to do the copay for the pills (complaint about spending money aside the PPO basically approves just about anything you throw at them), and buy a bunch of crap like gauze pads, medical tape, eye drops and cotton balls, some of which I'll actually use.

And the damn gauze eye patch is almost as annoying as just letting the eye water all day. When I peel off the patch to rub the itchy eye (yes I know I shouldn't, when your eye itches constantly for three days let me know how your self-control is holding up) I make the tape unable to stick to my skin even though it's spot-welded itself to the gauze, meaning I go through several patches a day.

If instead I go without the eye patch I have to keep any breezes out of my face since the one eye can't close... even the "breeze" caused by the vents on my car's dashboard. A/C takes a while to work its way up from the floor vents.

Ah well, just one more weird, annoying thing that can go wrong with one's body. At least it'll be over and done with in a few weeks. And it seems like one pill or the other is working a little -- the eye isn't as itchy and watery as it was before I went to the clinic.

April 22, 2009May 1, 2009