In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie opened up about her personal health struggles — threats of cancer that led her to the decisions to have a preventive double mastectomy and then to have her ovaries removed.
She said she developed hypertension and Bell’s palsy, a condition she said had caused her face to droop on one side.
“Sometimes women in families put themselves last until it manifests itself in their own health,” she told Vanity Fair.
What is Bell’s palsy, a condition that affects about 40,000 other people in America each year? Although alarming, the condition is not as scary as it may seem.
“Most people will go through life without having a Bell’s palsy,” Lyell Jones Jr., a neuromuscular neurologist at the Mayo Clinic, 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.”
[Angelina Jolie talks life after Brad Pitt, reveals Bell’s palsy diagnosis in Vanity Fair interview]
Over the years, numerous other well-known figures have battled their bouts with the rare condition, including Ralph Nader, Roseanne Barr and George Clooney.
“It was the first year of high school, which was a bad time for having half your face paralyzed,” Clooney told Larry King in 2006 about the time he had Bell’s palsy.
“It’s a weird — it’s one of those things, I remember what happened,” Clooney said. He said he had been watching a film called “The Pride of the Yankees,” which follows the life of Lou Gehrig. “And he’s trying to pick up a bat and it falls out of his hand. And the next day we were sitting in church and I was in the back of the pew and my tongue was numb. And then we would always go out to dinner, go up to Frisch’s Big Boy, which is, you know, that’s where everybody went for lunch after church, after mass.
“And I was drinking and milk was pouring out of my mouth. And I thought ‘Oh, my God, I have Lou Gehrig’s disease.’ Because you know, I wasn’t the brightest kid, and eventually, your eye and everything gets paralyzed.”
Bell’s palsy, a sudden but temporary facial paralysis, occurs when the nerve that controls the muscles on one side of the face becomes inflamed or swollen, making them too weak to move,