New program helps people with facial paralysis

The recent medical issue facing pop star Justin Bieber is shining the spotlight on facial paralysis.

MIAMI – The recent medical issue facing pop star Justin Bieber is shining the spotlight on facial paralysis.

While Bieber’s case was triggered by the virus that causes chicken pox and shingles, Dr. Liliana Ein, who leads the new UHealth Facial Nerve Program at the Department of Otolaryngology, said there are multiple reasons why someone could suffer facial paralysis.

These include trauma, tumors, congenital factors, Lyme disease, or facial-related medical procedures, but sometimes the cause is completely unknown.

“The nerve that moves the facial muscles or the muscles of expression is the facial nerve, or cranial nerve seven. This starts in our brain then jumps a short gap, then enters the bone behind our ear. It then makes this long twisty, turny course in the bone behind our ear and then comes out and it branches through our cheek and eventually makes it to our muscles of facial expression, so anywhere along that pathway, if there’s disruption of the nerve, we don’t get any impulses to the face and, essentially, the electricity goes out and the muscles stop moving,” she said.

Ein said the onset of facial paralysis may be sudden or develop slowly over time.

Helping patients recover involves physical therapy, and sometimes surgery to bring new muscle and nerve response into the face.

Also in today’s health news, a study out of Penn State found that Baby Boomers are more likely to live with chronic health issues than older generations.

Researchers said the most common health issues impacting Boomers were arthritis and hypertension, which they believe could be linked to greater exposure to risk factors, including an increase in obesity, in this population.

Improvements in technology may also be leading to improved diagnoses of problems in older adults.

The “Boomer” generation includes people born between 1946 to 1964.

About the Authors:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.