Vitamin B-12 is a natural alternative treatment, in conjunction with traditional medications to treat Bell's palsy -- a condition that causes temporary paralysis of one side the face, making symmetrical facial expression impossible. Bell's palsy has a variety of causes; therefore, treatment must be individually determined.
Bell's palsy is a temporary paralysis of the 7th cranial nerve -- the facial nerve -- that exits the skull, under the ear. This nerve stimulates movement of the facial muscles that produce winking and blinking, in addition to smiling and frowning. When Bell's palsy occurs, the muscles of the face are weak or paralyzed, causing the eyelid to droop and facial muscles to sag on the side of the face that is affected. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Bell's palsy affects 40,000 Americans each year, particularly if you suffer from Lyme disease, diabetes, or an upper respiratory illness such as the flu.
Bell's palsy occurs if the 7th cranial nerve is swollen, compressed or inflamed. These conditions inhibit nervous signals from the brain to the facial muscles, thus causing muscle paralysis. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Bell's can be caused by the herpes simples virus; the same virus that causes cold sores. It is thought that the virus infects the nerve, causing swelling, which cuts off blood supply to the nerve and inhibiting its function. In some instances, the delicate myelin sheath that aids nerve conduction becomes damaged, prolonging the Bell's palsy.
Traditional treatments are tailored to address the underlying cause of Bell's palsy. Infections are treated with antibiotics. The steroid prednisone decreases inflammation. Acyclovir -- a medication to treat the herpes virus -- can speed recovery. Bell's palsy makes blinking difficult, so lubricating eye drops are recommended. Physiotherapy is also recommended, which includes massage and exercises of the facial muscles to prevent permanent muscular contracture.
B-12 and Bell's Palsy
Vitamin B-12 is one of the eight B-vitamins. The body uses the vitamin to convert food into energy. It also helps to support healthy nerve function, red blood cell formation and works in tandem with folate -- vitamin B-9 -- to regulate mood and emotions. Vitamin B-12 injections are an alternative treatment method for Bell's palsy. In a 1995 study, published in "Methods and Findings in Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology", vitamin B12 -- also called methylcobalamin -- injections administered three times per week limited the condition to two weeks, opposed to nine weeks with prednisone alone. The injection is administered directly into the area of the facial nerve. The vitamin helps the nerve and surrounding muscle tissue produce energy and reduce inflammation.