Facial Palsy significantly impacts the quality of life of many people in Australia and can even cause depression.
DR CATHERINE MELLER – a specialist Ear, Nose and Throat and Facial Reconstructive Surgeon – has pioneered a public multidisciplinary clinic for treating patients with facial palsy, improving quality of life, self confidence and mental wellbeing.
Facial palsy generally refers to weakness of the facial muscles, mainly caused by damage to the facial nerve resulting in partial paralysis of the face, which can affect movement of the eye(s) and/or the mouth, as well as other areas.
Facial palsy causes many physical problems, including asymmetry of the face, difficulties closing the eye, eating and drinking and trouble with speaking clearly. It also has devastating emotional effects. Patients lose the ability to smile and are often perceived as ‘negative’ or ‘angry’.
Patients with facial palsy may also have trouble displaying emotions, causing miscommunication and self-consciousness. Patients frequently suffer from anxiety and depression because of the functional and cosmetic aspects of the condition.
In the clinic, Dr Meller can perform immediate facial nerve tests using a machine that was funded through generous supporters of the Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation. Patients benefit from on-the-spot diagnosis and treatments including individualised exercises from physiotherapists, Botox treatments, counselling services and small clinic procedures as well as learn about potential surgical treatments including nerve grafting and other cutting-edge techniques designed to restore facial symmetry and function.
Such surgeries have been found to improve quality of life by enabling patients to show emotions that they otherwise would have lost. The clinic is free for anyone under Medicare and aims to provide a holistic diagnostic and treatment service for patients suffering from facial palsy.