In a Vanity Fair cover story, Angelina Jolie opened up about her rare health condition, Bell’s palsy. She told the magazine she developed the condition as a result of facial nerve damage; however, the exact cause of the disorder is unknown, according to Mayo Clinic.

“Sometimes women in families put themselves last,” the 42-year-old actress told Vanity Fair, “until it manifests itself in their own health.”

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Bell’s palsy, also known as facial palsy, was temporary for Jolie, as it typically is for most people. She credits acupuncture for warding off her condition and ridding her of the droopy face it caused. If you’ve never heard of the condition, here’s what you need to know.

What Is Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s palsy is a temporary facial paralysis condition that affects about 40,000 Americans each year, according to the National Institutes of Health. The rare disorder causes sudden weakness in the facial muscle on one side of a person’s face, but in some rare cases it can affect both sides. It gets its name from Sir Charles Bell, who was a 19th century surgeon credited for describing the connection between the facial nerve and the condition.

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Signs And Symptoms

While many people may associate facial paralysis with stroke, Bell’s palsy is actually not related. However, if you are experiencing paralysis, it’s important to seek medical attention in order to make an accurate diagnosis. According to Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of Bell’s palsy include sudden facial weakness occurring within hours or days, difficulty making facial expressions, drooling, headache, decreased sense of taste, and increased sensitivity to sound on the affected side.

Facial Palsy Treatment

Jolie credits acupuncture for her full recovery, but there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for facial palsy. Surgery usually is not necessary, instead your doctor may recommend various types of medications to reduce swelling as well as physical therapy in order to learn how to massage and exercise your facial muscles to prevent future occurrences. Other lifestyle remedies include protecting the eye you can’t shut, taking over-the-counter pain relievers, and applying moist heat to your face.

A majority of people will not be affected by Bell’s palsy, Lyell Jones Jr., a neuromuscular neurologist, told The Washington Post. “But for most patients who have it — whether or not they get treatment for it — they tend to do very well, and most patients will have a complete recovery.”

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