In a story published in June 2015, a study collaboration done by Johns Hopkins University and Stanford University revealed that hyaluronic acid (HA) injections, normally used to plump lips, might be helpful to facial paralysis victims.
This new study was published in the JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery journal. Read on to learn the details of these encouraging results.
What Causes Facial Paralysis & How It Affects Sufferers
Dr. Kofi Boahene is a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Johns Hopkins as well as the author of the study results published in JAMA.
Facial paralysis occurs when electrical signals in muscles and nerves do not receive information from the brain to control movement. This can cause dropping of the face, drooling, and the inability to speak properly.
Dr. Boahene describes several conditions that can cause facial paralysis including, “…stroke, Bell’s Palsy, muscular dystrophy, trauma and birth defects.” He goes on to describe specific letters of the alphabet that are unable to be enunciated due to the mouth not being able to close all the way, thus producing severe speech issues.
He explains that psychologically, facial paralysis deeply affects patients because, “Many individuals with facial paralysis also become self-conscious about how they look.”
How Lip Injections Helped Study Participants
Just as penicillin was discovered “by accident”, so has this concept of injecting HA into patients for this study. Dr. Boahene discovered that by injecting a patient’s paralyzed lips, the added volume surrounded the oral muscles and toned them, helping them to move.
Though some patients suffered from partial paralysis while others had full loss of lip movement, both groups improved after being injected. In fact, all 25 subjects “showed marked improvement”.
The researchers identified the target treatment areas by asking the patients to blow air with pursed lips. Wherever they saw muscle weakness, that’s where they injected the HA.
Though lip injections for cosmetic purposes are not covered by health insurance, when they are solely for “therapeutic purposes”, often times the procedure can be covered. Results last up to one year.
Boahene says, “It is important that therapeutic injections be performed by physicians experienced in treating and managing facial paralysis and muscle weakness.”
They are currently trying to plan for a larger study group of 100 subjects.
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