Jeff Lawson diagnosed with Bell's Palsy; he will be fine

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - We see Jeff Lawson every week night on WLOX News at six and ten. Viewers have been watching him on the coast for more than 25 years; so it's no surprise many have noticed a change in his appearance. That's why Jeff thought it was important to offer an explanation.

"Because my ugly mug is on TV," he laughs, "I thought I should clarify what's happening."

For Jeff, the symptoms came out of nowhere. The first thing he said he noticed was that his right eye was doing strange things.

"When I tried to raise my eyebrows, only the left one would go up. What in the world is up with that?"

Shortly after that he noticed his balance was off. In fact, he couldn't walk a straight line when trying to put one foot directly in front of the other.

He says the ordeal is frustrating, but it was also somewhat frightening at first because he didn't know what was causing it. While doctors suspected it was Bell's Palsy, they had to rule out the possibility something more serious, like a stroke or even a brain tumor.

He saw several doctors and had a series of tests. The diagnosis was a relief to say the least.

"I ended up having a brain MRI, and the neurologists confirmed there's nothing wrong with the brain, and that what I have is a case of Bell's Palsy. It essentially paralyzes one side of your face, but this is a mild case for which I'm grateful."

Ocean Springs Neurologist Dr. Lennon "Bo" Bowen says Jeff's case is not unusual.

"It a seventh cranial nerve dysfunction. That's the facial nerve that controls facial strength, and that nerve swells up and short circuits and causes weakness on one side of the face," said Bowen.

Bowen says some cases are thought to be caused by the virus that causes cold sores, but for many, the cause is unclear.

"Most of the time, it just happens."

Jeff says the good news is that it's not serious and the symptoms are usually temporary.

"In almost all cases it does go away. They don't know what causes it, but 90 to 95 percent of cases go away within a couple of months, so I'm checking the calendar every day," Jeff said

Jeff is thankful for the concern the community has expressed for him, and he hopes that by sharing his story he will help educate the public about Bell's Palsy, and encourage people to get any unusual symptoms checked out by a doctor.

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