Kim Mulkey, the women's basketball coach at Baylor University, has been diagnosed with Bell's palsy, a form of (typically) temporary facial paralysis, according to news reports. The diagnosis comes as the team readies for its match against Stanford this weekend in the NCAA Final Four.
"When I smile it's crooked and when I talk, and talk loud, the hollowness in my hearing is weird," Mulkey told the Boston Globe. "But it’s not going to keep me from hollering."
The Boston Globe reported that Mulkey initially felt a sensation on her tongue, which then led to having an overall strange sensation in her mouth a week before. Upon seeing her reflection in the mirror, her left eye had dropped down, according to the Boston Globe.
Mulkey is one of 30,000 to 40,000 people who are affected by Bell's palsy each year in the United States, according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. It occurs when the facial muscles become weak and drop, making it look like half of your smile is drooping down, and the eye on that side of the face won't completely close, the Mayo Clinic reported.
Bell's palsy's exact cause isn't completely known and can happen to anyone of any age, though it's more common in people who are pregnant and between ages 15 and 60, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
However, experts believe that it could be caused when the nerves of your facial muscles become inflamed, and may occur as a result of a viral infection, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The American Academy of Family Physicians reported that risk factors include being infected with the herpes simplex virus, having diabetes, having a cold or the flu, mono, sarcoidosis, HIV, or Lyme disease. However, the organization warned people not to panic because these are just risk factors -- not things that cause Bell's palsy.
When a person first exhibits signs of the condition, a doctor may check to make sure it's not actually something more severe like a brain tumor, and will conduct a CT or MRI scan of the head. Nerve conduction tests or electromyography (EMG) may also be conducted, according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. In Mulkey's case, her doctors had her undergo an MRI to make sure she didn't have a tumor or wasn't experiencing a stroke.
Besides partial facial paralysis, other symptoms of Bell's palsy include jaw pain, sound sensitivity, impaired taste sensitivity, headache and tear or saliva production changes, according to the Mayo Clinic.
However, the Mayo Clinic noted that the symptoms are temporary, and usually get better in weeks without treatment. Rarely, the symptoms last forever or come back again.
The National Institutes of Health reported that three in four people will get better without any treatments for the condition. However, a doctor may prescribe eye drops if you're unable to close your eye, or corticosteroids for facial nerve swelling, the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia reported.
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