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Virus that leads to paralytic attack

mumbai Updated: Oct 29, 2009 01:59 IST
Naziya Alvi
Naziya Alvi
Hindustan Times
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Two days after Diwali, Powai resident Ram Iyer’s left eyelid stopped blinking.

His left eye looked smaller than the right one and by the night, the 61-year-old business consultant couldn’t drink water or talk clearly as his lips felt stiff.

By morning, his entire left side of face was twisted and had gone numb. His family rushed him to a hospital, where he was told that he had suffered a facial paralysis attack.

While Iyer is undergoing therapy, the real shock for him was that the paralysis was caused by a virus that can attack anyone with a weak immune system.

“One hears of virus causing infections and fever but we never knew it could lead to a paralytic attack,” said Iyer’s daughter, Shweta.

This virus gets more active during October-November, when there is change of season that causes fluctuation in immunity levels, said doctors.

The culprit behind Iyer’s condition is a virus called Herpes Simplex 1 (HSV-1).

“Most people are exposed to HSV-1 during their childhood but it usually lies dormant. The exact trigger for it attacking the facial nerves is not yet known,” said Iyer’s doctor Vimal Pahuja, a physician at Powai’s Hiranandani Hospital.

Impaired immunity, whether temporary (stress, lack of sleep, minor illness, physical trauma, upper respiratory infection, etc.) or long-term (auto-immune syndromes, chronic disease, etc.) could be the possible triggers, Pahuja added.

Iyer can take hope from Ruhi (21) (surname withheld on request), who suffered a facial paralysis attack six years ago.

With a combination of anti-viral drugs, steroids and physiotherapy, Ruhi overcame the condition and is now studying at the Government Law College at Churchgate.

“An early treatment can put things back on track in almost 90 per cent facial paralysis cases within three to six months,” said Dr Pravina Shah, former HOD of neurology department, KEM hospital.