Woman with rare facial condition calls for greater awareness following treatment in Sussex

Carole is receiving treatment at The Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead for Facial Palsy. Credit: ITV Meridian

A woman from Sussex who was diagnosed with Facial Palsy is calling for greater awareness of the condition.

The disorder, which can be caused by an infection, trauma, or a stroke, causes muscles in the face to drop or swell.

Carole Compagnone's face dropped in the middle of one night in 2014.

She was prescribed steroids by her GP, but not anti viral drugs. If that had happened within 72 hours, her symptoms might not have been as long-lasting.

Carole is now receiving treatment at The Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, which is home to the first Facial Palsy unit of its kind in the country.

Founded in 2007, it provides support to people of all ages right across the UK.

Staff at the QVH say the effects of Facial Palsy aren't well know, even within the medical profession.

Carole Compagnone's face dropped in the middle of one night in 2014.

What is Facial Palsy?

According to the NHS, the condition is a temporary weakness or lack of movement that usually affects 1 side of the face.

Treatment with steroids can help and most people get better within 6 months.

What are the symptoms of Facial Palsy?

  • weakness on 1 side of your face, or not being able to move 1 side of your face – this usually happens over a few days

  • a drooping eyelid or corner of your mouth

  • drooling

  • a dry mouth

  • loss of taste

  • a dry or watering eye

Research from the support charity Facial Palsy UK:

Carole says the treatment she receives is more than just muscle therapy. The sessions have given her the strength to deal with a condition that makes it difficult to face the outside world.

She says: "Any other problem with your body, you're clothed and you can cover it up. But with your face, it's out there and in the world.

"It was like a light had come on in my life again. I get quite emotional when I think about it because it was just that. I walked in and people were not only friendly but they also understood."

A facial therapist at the QVH, Catriona Neville, says their work is important in helping people with the condition to see a positive future.

She says: "I've had patients who have lost their jobs, left jobs and left relationships because they haven't been able to kiss their partner and their whole relationship has broken down.

"I've worked with patients who have complained to me that their face might not look severely affected by their facial palsy but actually internally, the feel of it is incredibly painful and distracting and intrusive to their thoughts."

Popstar Justin Bieber was forced to pull out of his world tour, after an infection led to facial paralysis.

Two years later, he’s much better after receiving the right medical support.

Ruben Kannan, a consultant plastic surgeon at the QVH, says it's important to raise awareness of facial conditions like Facial Palsy, as people can often be misdiagnosed.

He says: "The impact on the healthcare system with someone with the wrong diagnosis and going around with a supposed mental health problem is devastating because it means it puts a lot of pressure on the NHS."

Online support for Facial Palsy can be found here.

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