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Bell’s Palsy and Scuba Diving

I’ve had Bell’s palsy and though the condition resolved, I still notice some residual symptoms. It would bear to keep this in mind especially when diving.

When I first developed the condition, I was surprised to speak to so many people who volunteered that they had suffered this problem and recovered without any outward signs. Briefly the condition is a facial weakness/paralysis that comes on spontaneously. The cause is really unknown. In my case it occurred on a weekend and for a moment I entertained the thought of a stroke. After some tense weeks the facial weakness resolved. At this point my motor strength is full and the face is symmetrical except when I am fatigued. Then there is enough residual to notice an asymmetry.

As to diving, I began lessons and qualified as an advanced open water diver in the PADI course over the summer. As I became more experienced I noticed that there were problems clearing/equalizing my left ear. Presently I hold my nose and after the right side opens, I quickly swallow and the left side then opens up. After the dive, I have the feeling of fullness and increased bone conduction which subtly affects my hearing. I have puzzled over this and cleaned my ears to no avail. Finally I looked up the anatomy and realize that the Eustachian tube opens by a muscle. That same muscle is controlled by the facial nerve (Bell’s palsy). So it is the mild subtle residual weakness in the nerve which makes the left side equalize more slowly.

A word to all divers who have had Bell’s palsy, perhaps this will reassure and allow you to compensate better. It took a while for me to reach this “aha!!” moment.

6 responses

  1. Thanky you for sharing this information!
    All the best to you.
    Fond greetings

    September 22, 2012 at 2:13 am

  2. Good grief! I thought you had a stoke when I saw this! I’ve been away from your blog for so long that I thought you croaked! I have to say, you look as ridiculous as the people in all of the parades you used to photograph in NYC. Ha Ha. Would you please take care and try not to drown until I get back here! 🙂

    September 22, 2012 at 3:31 am

  3. Pingback: Bell's Palsy and Scuba Diving « photobackstory | Diving Adventures Scuba Diving Travel

  4. My ex had this, and had to stay off his job as an iron worker for some time. Eating was very difficult. He wasn’t left with any long term symptoms. Thanks, I think for reminding me of an emotional painful time. Stay well and safe, my friend.

    September 22, 2012 at 1:05 pm

  5. My goodness. I never knew about this condition. Sad to hear it has you in its grips. Hope you can still dive, love the images.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:29 pm

  6. of patients have some sort of sequelae after Bell’s palsy, typically the synkinesis already discussed, or spasm, contracture, tinnitus and/or hearing loss during facial movement or crocodile tear syndrome . This is also called gustatolacrimal reflex or Bogorad’s Syndrome and involves the sufferer shedding tears while eating. This is thought to be due to faulty regeneration of the facial nerve, a branch of which controls the lacrimal and salivary glands. Gustatorial sweating can also occur.

    September 30, 2012 at 7:11 am

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