Bell's Palsy Update - Week 12

Oh yes. The saga continues. This week has brought highs and lows where my battle with Bell's Palsy is concerned. Hills and valleys. But, sad to report, not a definitive end to this really bad dream I'm living. Sigh.

High point: I've been working with my Speech Therapist Tori for a little more than a week, and I can tell a difference in the paralysis, especially around my left eyebrow and upper jaw and top lip. More importantly, both Tori and Mr. T (he of the Doubting nature) can see and hear improvements. I have a new set of facial exercises that target my mouth, tongue, jaw, and chin...and I have doing them faithfully twice a day.

On my Therapy days, Tori places 2 electrodes on my left cheek and sends electrical impulses to stimulate the nerve and muscles...while putting me through my paces with the exercises. No, it's not actually reminds me of the TENS Unit (4 electrodes) I use on my lower back when I'm having an episode of back pain. Still, I refer to the VitalStim (which is the name of the facial version of electrodes) as The Zapper...just like I call the TENS Unit. Doesn't this all sound like fun? Remember, I called this a high point!

Low point: I got confirmation of one of my primary fears. I saw my "new" ophthalmologist today about the vision problems with my right eye...AKA: the "other" eye. (My former Eye Dr has retired, and this one is in the same practice...and I like him even better!) You probably remember my saying I have developing cataracts in both eyes, with the right eye having the poorer vision? Anyway, Dr. T was clearly surprised at the speed of development of the cataract in my right eye, and said I may have the steroids (which I've taken earlier this year for my back problems and more recently for the Bell' well as having used a steroid-based nasal spray for years to help with my vertigo) to thank. Oh joy. Seems there is a definite link between corticosteroid use and Posterior Subcapsular Cataract, or PSC.

What's that, you ask? Here's more info than you probably wanted from The Centre for Vision Research:

Posterior subcapsular cataract develops at the back of the lens, often in the visual axis, and so affects vision rapidly and severely. The majority of people needing cataract surgery have some posterior subcapsular cataract present at that time.

The BMES demonstrated many important associations with posterior subcapsular cataract, including that the use of steroid therapy, particularly long-term use of inhaled steroids (Becotide and others) increased the risk of cataract in a moderate, dose-related manner. These findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, New Scientist, and elsewhere.

After a long appointment which included a glare test, interocular measurements, and 3 rounds of dilation drops, I wasn't surprised to find myself in the Scheduling Tech's office...putting dates on my calendar. Surgery on the right eye is scheduled for October 3. I go for pre-op testing today.

Great big, double sigh.

I know, I know...I am fortunate. This is not my great-grandmother's cataract surgery (where she was in the hospital for a week), nor is it even my mother's cataract surgery (where she had to keep her eye patched for several days). I'll be an outpatient, get to go home in a few hours, and can pretty much resume "normal" activities in a day or two. Still, I'm beginning to feel the cumulative effects of everything this year hath wrought.

Any wonder why I whole-heartedly, with no reservation whatsoever, agreed with Missy M: "I'll sure be glad when it's 2013!"?

Me, too, darling. Me, too.


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