Why A Plane Can Paralyze A Person
Sudden paralysis of half of the face and ear pain - these symptoms were manifested in a man who flew on a plane with Professor Alan Hunter from the University of Oregon of Health and Science.
Sudden paralysis of half of the face and ear pain - these symptoms were manifested in a man who flew on a plane with Professor Alan Hunter from the University of Oregon of Health and Science. The reason was not a stroke, as originally assumed, but only pressure drops. Hunter spoke about the condition that threatens airplane passengers and scuba divers in an article in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
As soon as the plane climbed, the cabin crew began to question passengers - is there a doctor among them?
One of the people flying had symptoms of a stroke. Hunter volunteered to help the man.
The passenger was a young, healthy man whose right half of his face sank down. In addition, he could not frown and close his right eye, Hunter said.
The patient said that a couple of minutes ago he suddenly had a headache on the right side, his ears hurt and he felt a lot of pressure. He also said that he had a runny nose, but passed a day earlier. Although the speech was illegible, and saliva flowed from his mouth, the man was completely conscious, expressed his thoughts coherently, he had no problems with coordination. For a stroke, all this was uncharacteristic.
Whatever provoked sudden paralysis of the face, it was not associated with a stroke, Hunter concluded. Obviously, the condition caused a take-off, after which the symptoms appeared.
I focused on the time when the man became ill, and on his recent illness, the doctor explained. I wondered if the decrease in atmospheric pressure in the cabin led to a relative increase in pressure in the middle ear from the blocked Eustachian tube, which was transmitted to the branches of the seventh nerve passing through the middle ear.
The man received an oxygen mask, and he managed to reduce the pressure in his ears with the yawning, swallowing and maneuver of Valsalva, a technique when a person tries to exhale strongly with his mouth and nose clamped and vocal cords closed.
Already after 15 minutes, the passenger said that he was feeling better. Soon the symptoms completely disappeared.
After landing, Hunter began to search for a description of such symptoms in the medical literature. The physician found that other passengers faced similar problems, but most often they were observed among those who were engaged in scuba diving. It turned out he was faced with Bell's palsy.
The condition occurs when scuba divers rise from the bottom and occasionally during flights when traveling by land at high altitude, after certain operations on the middle ear and with some structural disorders of the middle ear,- Hunter said.
According to the professor, such symptoms can occur with a decrease in atmospheric pressure - as happens in the cabin during take-off. Under such conditions, the pressure in the middle ear increases, which leads to neuropraxia - closed nerve damage in which its conductivity is temporarily impaired.
Although symptoms may frighten the victim due to similarities with stroke symptoms, the condition itself is not too dangerous. 15-30 minutes of measures to relieve pressure and inhalation of oxygen-enriched air is enough to return to normal.
Sometimes paralysis can occur regularly, Hunter warns. In this case, drugs that reduce swelling and reduce discharge in the ear may be needed.
Bell paralysis occurs in approximately 23 people per 100 thousand annually. In addition to pressure drops, it can be caused by complications of respiratory diseases, immunodeficiency, chemotherapy, pregnancy, and head injuries. It can also occur against the background of long hypothermia.
Symptoms of Bell's palsy can last longer, up to several months. Up to 80% of patients recover completely. During treatment, eye protection measures during sleep are shown, massage of weakened muscles and a splint that prevents the lowering of the lower part of the face. A course of prednisone may be effective, starting with 60–80 mg daily in the first 5 days. In the next 5 days, the dose of the drug is gradually reduced. Surgical intervention is possible, but there is no reliable data on its benefits.
Possible complications of paralysis include contracture of the facial muscles, their atrophy, or persistent weakness.