Facial paralysis is a serious problem that can be caused by a number of illnesses; from a stroke, Bell’s palsy, trauma and even certain birth defects. Aside from the practical problems of facial paralysis like eating and talking, it can also have enormous psychological effects on the patient, making them self-conscious when out in public, and in severe cases, depressed.
Now there is hope that a simple cosmetic procedure can change these patients’ lives for the better. An injection of hyaluronic acid, generally used as lip filler for people who want bigger lips has been shown in a small study to ease the paralysis.
One of the biggest benefits of this particular therapy is that cosmetic lip injects have been around for years, so any side effects are well known. Further, the cost is relatively cheap, about $500 to $2,000 per injection. The treatment only needs to be given once a year, and most insurance companies will typically cover lip injections if they’re given for therapeutic reasons.
An accidental discovery
Some of the greatest discoveries are made by accident. This one is no different. A doctor was treating a patient who had trouble speaking because of weak facial muscles. She suffered from undiagnosed muscular dystrophy. The doctor gave her a lip injection of hyaluronic acid to see if it would improve the muscles in her lips. The results were not only immediate but also very impressive. The doctor says that he saw improvement in not just her facial muscles, but also her articulation while speaking.
Small study gives promising results
After the success with that one patient, a team of doctors conducted a study of 25 patients. Most had some paralysis around one side of the mouth, and three had paralysis on both sides due to muscular dystrophy.
Doctors had the patients wrap their lips around a special instrument that measured lip tone. When they blew air, the instrument indicated where the air was escaping, indicating some paralysis. Hyaluronic acid was then injected in those weaker areas. The results were positive, with the best results seen among the three patients with muscular dystrophy.
A speech therapist assessed all 25 patients before and after the injections. The patients were assessed on how well they spoke, ate and drank. Every patient showed improvement.
More studies needed
While the results were overly positive for the smaller study of 25 patients, more studies will be needed to ensure there are no unforeseen side effects. Further, researchers plan to see if fat from other areas of the body can be injected into the lips to get a similar result.
Normally, dermatologists and plastic surgeons perform lip injections as a cosmetic procedure. But doctors who have experience dealing with facial paralysis and other muscular disorders should only give these injections given to treat facial paralysis.
If you have any questions about different cosmetic procedures and if they’re right for you, don’t hesitate to call our office.