Former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley has revealed he suffers from a neuro-muscular disease called Bell’s Palsy which has paralyzed part of his face on the right side.

He is  the Republican candidate for governor of Connecticut and says he revealed the illness because of questions on the campaign trail.

He says he was diagnosed with the condition 16 years ago and it  caused severe muscle paralysis on the right side of his face, making it difficult to smile, among other problems. 

"I really hadn't thought about it much until I started running for office and I started hearing back secondhand you know, 'Why doesn't Tom smile more?' and I was being criticized for my articulation," said Foley, during a campaign stop in New Haven.

"It would gradually get better and you could feel your nerves hooking up again with muscles, and muscles that hadn't worked for a long time all of a sudden started twitching and started working again, but that stopped."

There are about 40,000 new cases of Bell's Palsy diagnosed in the United States every year.  Dr. Lori Cretella, a neurologist with the Hospital of Saint Raphael said it can be succefssully treated .

"Patients will notice some weakness of the face, have some difficulty fully closing the eye, some drooping of the mouth," said Dr. Cretella.  "It does not affect a person's cognition or memory."

Foley,a close confidante  of former President George W. Bush was Ambassador to Ireland from 2006 to 2009. He is locked in a tight race with another Irish American, Democrat Dan Malloy for Connecticut governor.