Republican Congressman Steve King has been diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, making him unable to wink one of his eyes.
King says it appeared about a month ago and doctors at the National Navel Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, confirmed the diagnosis on Monday. "Right now I’m doing everything I need to do expect less television, more radio," King says.
Bell’s Palsy is a form of paralysis caused by a virus, causing the malfunction of a cranial nerve. It can be short-lived, or it can last up to a year. In King’s case, it has immobilized the right side of his face. King puts in eye drops about twice a day to deal with the dryness caused by not blinking normally. He’s been pushing his eye lid with a finger to blink every once in a while to compensate. "It’s really not that severe. It just makes it a little hard to eat," King says. "It’s hard to express myself with my facial expressions. That’s really the hardest part. I didn’t realize how much I use my face when I talk — smile, frown and all the other facial expressions that go with it."
King says he’s putting it all in perspective. King met a soldier who had permanent burn scars on his face and hands after being injured in Iraq, and has dedicated his life to lobbying for other wounded soldiers coming back from the Middle East. "I got the message," King says. "This is a small thing that I’m going through."
Bell’s Palsy is named for Sir Charles Bell, a Scottsman who studied the nerve and its effect on facial muscles 200 years ago. Experts say about 40,000 Americans are afflicted with Bell’s Palsy each year.