HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Big name celebrities, like Angelina Jolie, Pierce Brosnan, and George Clooney have brought awareness to a condition called Bell's Palsy. They all had it and recovered from it. Now we're getting a closer look at Bell's Palsy, after our FOX 26 colleague was diagnosed with it.
Oscar Garcia is a busy dad who works at FOX 26, and now he's dealing with a medical condition that came "out of the blue".
"I just felt like something was off. I didn't feel like my eye was closing all the way and it felt weird. I asked my 8-year old if my face looked funny and I was blinking and she was laughing and saying, 'you can't close your eye'. And I was thinking, 'oh my goodness, something's wrong with me, I had a stroke, or I was going to have a stroke,'" explains Oscar.
After a trip to the doctor, he luckily found out it wasn't that serious, but the symptoms do mimic a stroke.
Oscar was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy, named after Sir Charles Bell, a 19th century surgeon who realized a facial nerve causes the condition. It's the most common cause of facial paralysis.
"One side of the face stops being able to move. It's usually because the nerve that supplies information to the muscle has been injured or is swollen in some way," says Dr. Ronda Alexander, an Otolaryngololgist and head & neck surgeon with UT Health/UT Physicians.
While Dr. Alexander is not Oscar's doctor, she has helped treat this condition and says it often remains a mystery as to what causes it.
"To be a true Bell's Palsy, you need to not have any ear disease or infection and no trauma to the head. Then we say, it's probably from a viral infection, a common cold, or elevated blood pressure, or poorly controlled diabetes or pregnancy," says Dr. Alexander.
Again, it can happen randomly.
"We always want a reason - I asked, am I stressed, exhausted, anxious about something? My doctors says I may be all those things, but this happens at random to anybody," says Oscar.
He's right about that. The typical ages are between 15 to 60, but it can strike anyone at anytime, affecting fewer than 100,000 people per year.
Besides the facial paralysis, there are no other symptoms and it's treated with prescription steroids. Doctors suggest patients tape their eye shut at night, since they can't close their eyelid and sometimes facial massage can help stimulate the nerve.
Oscar is able to function normally, so that means he's back at work with us.
"It's good to be here, focused and taking my mind off of what is happening," smiles Oscar. He goes on to say that he hopes it goes away sooner rather than later. The symptoms usually disappear between three weeks to three months.