Facial Palsy and what it is like to live with facial paralysis

Adults with Facial Palsy

When I reached adulthood I began to question why I wasn't receiving more care and advice regarding my facial paralysis problems. It felt rather like I had been left to get on with it, as if I was supposed to just accept my lot. When I was in my twenties, during a routine visit to my G.P. I asked whether there was anything that could be done about my facial palsy, I wondered if there had been medical developments which meant they could now correct it? I was told that nerves once damaged couldn't be repaired and my G.P. didn't seem interested in entering into any further discussion about my facial paralysis problems.

Dry eye problems due to facial paralysis

I have always struggled with a dry eye because my left one doesn't close properly and once I hit my thirties I really became fed up with feeling like I constantly had grit in my eye. I decided to search the internet to see if I could find out any ways I could help myself with my dry eye problem. I found some very interesting websites describing how they were using nerve stimulators to get people's facial muscles working again and I also found some tips on helping with my dry eye problem.

Armed with this information I approached my new G.P. (we had moved to a different area by this time). My new G.P. was much more understanding and she genuinely cared about making my life more comfortable. She went back through my records and found that I should have been sent an appointment through for when I was about 12 years old, for another check-up at Addenbrookes Hospital. I had somehow slipped through the hospital's system, I had literally been forgotten! My G.P. got in touch with Addenbrookes and made the appointment for me that I should have had 20 years earlier!

My mother accompanied me to Addenbrookes, it was an interesting experience but I was still a bit of a "wonder" to the eye specialists there. They did point out several things to me which explained some of my facial palsy problems. The rim of my lower eyelid on my left eye is much thinner than my right eye, so the eyelashes grow much closer to the eye and hence why I constantly feel like my eyelashes are sticking into my left eye. This probably didn't help my eyeliner dilemmas as a teenager either! There was still no real cure for what had happened to me, and no real explanation as to what has caused the facial paralysis, but being able to talk to medical professionals about this for the first time in my adult life did help. Knowledge is power as they say!

Pictures of my eyes in different states of closure are shown here.

My G.P. also arranged for me to visit an eye specialist at my local hospital and he recommended liquifilm artificial tears to me. These artificial tears really help with my dry eye and I am slightly bitter that I didn't know about these years ago. I do feel let down by the Health Service, I've had many years of struggling with this dry eye problem when I needn't have done. The specialist at Peterborough District Hospital (UK) also mentioned there was an operation where they could sew weights into my eyelid to make it close at night. He explained that because I don't close my eye properly it is similar to a car with a faulty window wiper, if the wiper is not working properly then the dirt does not always get washed away. He also said that my eye was probably catching on the pillow during the night and that's why I so often wake up with a sore red eye in the morning. He said there was another lady having the operation soon, but she hadn't had her problems since birth. He was going to see if she would talk to me about the operation but he feared she might be too self-conscious, I guess she was because she never got in touch. In that way I think I am lucky, because I have always had this problem, life has not suddenly changed for me. I feel sad that I will never be able to show my teeth when I smile, but there are far worse things that could have happened to me. I take great pleasure in watching my children laugh, knowing that they are perfect in ways I never will be.

Eyelid weight surgery for people with facial palsy

In 2009 I decided to pursue the option of gold weight eyelid surgery. I have discussed the surgery with Jenn in Canada who has had this surgery and more. Pictures of Jenn's surgery are shown here.

Over the Christmas holiday 2009, the consultant at Peterborough District Hospital allowed me to try out different weights to see which one I was comfortable with.  They are all different shapes, sizes and weight.

Here is video of what my blink looks like before I tried the weights:

Now here is video of what my blink looks like with the weight tried out stuck to the outside of my eyelid, when I have the operation it will be inserted inside the eyelid:

It's now 2010 and I have a date for my operation in April.  I am nervous and excited at the same time, I have had a really rough winter perhaps because it has been so cold and the central heating has been whacked right up most of the time, so my eye is constantly sore.  I am really looking forward to see if this eyelid weight helps my blink, but don't want to get my hopes up too high in case it is uncomfortable.  I tried buying an eye patch from a place in New Zealand recently and it just felt too odd wearing it, so I know that things that seem like a good idea are not necessarily so!

Update @ May 2010: I cancelled my eyelid weight operation because I am still unsure whether to go ahead with the surgery.  I faced pressure from my family who didn't want me to have it done.