Migraine sufferers at risk from Bell Palsy

migraine1A new study published in the journal of Neurology has associated migraine with an increased risk of developing Bell’s palsy, a condition that may cause facial paralysis. Symptoms include twitching, weakness in one or both sides of the face, partial or complete paralysis, drooping of the eyelid or corner of the mouth, drooling, eye or mouth dryness and taste impairment.

Migraine affects approximately 36 million Americans and sufferers may at double the risk of developing Ball’s palsy. Past studies have also indicated an association between migraine and facial and limb weakness.

In this latest study, the research team set out to see whether there is a link between migraine and Bell’s palsy.The study conducted by Dr. Shuu-Jiun Waicng of the National Yang-Ming University and Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan, identified two groups of 136,704 individuals aged 18 years and older; one group had neurologist-diagnosed migraine and the other group did not. Both groups were followed for an average of 3.2 years.

After analyzing the date obtained during the follow-up period, the team found that 671 individuals with migraine developed Bell’s palsy, compared with only 365 people who did not have migraine. The researchers explained that migraine is associated with various vascular disorders and asymmetrical facial blood perfusion, which raises the suspicion of ischemic mononeuropathy of the facial nerve.

“This is a very new association between migraine and Bell’s palsy. Our study also suggests that these two conditions may share a common underlying link. If a common link is identified and confirmed, more research may lead to better treatments for both conditions,” said Dr. Wang.

The researchers noted limitations of their study as the study only considered patients with active migraine not patients with previous or nonactive migraine. They also note that there may have been an underestimation of the risk of Bell’s palsy among migraine sufferers as the control group may have consisted of patients who had migraine but did not seek treatment.


Increased risk of Bell palsy in patients with migraine, Shuu-Jiun Wang, et al., Neurology, published online 17 December 2014, abstract.
Neurology news release, accessed 16 December 2014.

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