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The Word of the Day, well actually two words this time is BELL'S PHENOMENON and comes from "THE SLEEPING BEAUTIES And Other Stories of Mystery Illness" by Suzanne O'Sullivan.


The Bell’s phenomenon, also called the palpebral-oculogyric reflex, refers to the movement of the eyeballs in an upward direction when the eyelids are forcefully closed. It was Charles Bell, a great British anatomist, who first observed this in 1823 when trying to close the eyelids of a patient with facial palsy. Both the facial nerve paralysis and the eyeball deviation observed in this condition are named after him.

In short, this phenomenon represents a reflex in which the eyes are seen to roll up and out when both eyelids are forcibly closed. The facial nerve carries the afferent fibers for this reflex, while the efferent fibers travel via the oculomotor nerve to the superior rectus muscle that controls upper eyelid movement. In Bell’s palsy, this movement is seen because the eyelids fail to close properly.

Bell’s phenomenon is a normal reflex seen in eight out of ten people. It basically protects the eyeball (especially the cornea) against sudden contact with a potentially traumatizing agent. For instance, when a person blinks or when the eye is threatened by any object, the eyeballs roll up.

This helps to ensure that the majority of minor traumatic impacts occur on the lower part of the cornea due to the reflex rolling up of the eyelids.

Article taken from News Medical Life Sciences.

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