Answer to question of the day: Suspected bells palsy?

We asked you about this case of a 37 year old intravenous drug user with suspected bells palsy.

And after reading his case, the diagnosis is:

d. Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

Firstly this is a lower motor neuron (LMN) facial (CN VII) palsy: facial weakness of the whole of the face.*

Bell’s is a lower motor neurone lesion which is idiopathic in nature.

The aetiology is probably thought to be a herpes virus and there is some evidence to support the use of short course oral corticosteroids and aciclovir.

  • about 50% of people will get better with no treatment
  • steroids for approximately 1 week seem to help 50% of cases
  • the benefit of aciclovir remains controversial

Read the Bandoleir review here

However: Ramsay Hunt is a facial nerve palsy caused by associated herpes zoster infection (as manifested in this case by the vesicles). When a patient presents with a CNVII weakness, this is one of the key reasons to perform otoscopy, as otherwise you may miss the vesicles.

*Remember in UMN lesions the upper half of the face (highlighted here in yellow) is spared as there is bilateral UMN innervation. You would not expect this in Ramsay hunt as its a LMN lesion. The image below shows a LMN CNVII weakness.

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