Oral corticosteroid drugs can help treat Bell’s palsy, a condition which causes temporary facial weakness or paralysis, if the muscles remain paralyzed over time. According to News Medical, researchers sought to understand whether these therapies, such as prednisolone, helped to improve recovery in children with this condition.
The study was performed by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. Prior studies have centered around the use of corticosteroids in adult patients. However, there was limited research on whether corticosteroids could be similarly useful in symptom reduction in pediatric patients.
Altogether, 187 participants, ranging in age from 6 months to 17 years, enrolled in this trial. Patients were enrolled within 72 hours (3 days) of symptom manifestation. Afterwards, they were given either a placebo or prednisolone.
The data, published in Neurology, showed that rates of recovery (in regard to facial function) were relatively similar between the two groups:
- One Month Later: 57% recovery (placebo) vs. 49% (prednisolone)
- Three Months Later: 85% (placebo) vs. 90% (prednisolone)
- Six Months Later: 93% (placebo) vs. 99% (prednisolone)
While prednisolone was relatively well-tolerated, some side effects did occur, such as a heightened appetite and temporary behavioral changes.
Ultimately, the study found that most children – regardless of corticosteroid treatment – are able to recover facial function from Bell’s palsy. However, families and their doctors should still discuss the best option for treatment and management.
About Bell’s Palsy
Bell’s palsy, or idiopathic facial palsy, is a non-progressive neurological disorder affecting the 7th cranial facial nerve. It causes temporary facial paralysis and/or weakness on one side of the face. Bell’s palsy results from nerve compression or decreased blood supply to the nerve. Doctors are unsure of exactly what causes this, though viral infections and immune disorders are often implicated as potential causes. Bell’s palsy is the most common form of facial paralysis. Symptoms often appear within 48-72 hours and generally begin to improve within weeks to months. These symptoms and characteristics can include:
- Mild fever
- Pain behind the ear on the affected side
- Neck stiffness
- Unilateral facial weakness or stiffness
- Decrease in tear and/or saliva production
- Loss of taste
- Increased sensitivity to sound
- Lack of corneal reflex
- Tears not caused by emotion (after/during recovery)
- Voluntary muscle movements followed by involuntary facial muscle contractions (after/during recovery)