What is Bell's palsy?
Bell's palsy is a
paralysis or weakness of the muscles on one side of
your face. Damage to the facial nerve that controls muscles on one side of the
face causes that side of your
face to droop . The nerve damage may also affect your sense of taste and how you
make tears and saliva. This condition comes on suddenly, often overnight, and
usually gets better on its own within a few weeks.
is not the result of a
stroke or a
transient ischemic attack (TIA). While stroke and TIA
can cause facial paralysis, there is no link between Bell's palsy and either of
these conditions. But sudden weakness that occurs on one side of your face should be checked by a doctor right away to rule out these more serious causes.
What causes Bell's palsy?
The cause of Bell's
palsy is not clear. Most cases are thought to be caused by the
herpes virus that causes cold sores.1
In most cases of Bell's palsy, the nerve that
controls muscles on one side of the face is damaged by
Many health problems can
cause weakness or paralysis of the face. If a specific reason cannot be found
for the weakness, the condition is called Bell's palsy.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of Bell's palsy include:
- Sudden weakness or paralysis on one side of your face that causes it
to droop. This is the main symptom. It may make it hard for you to close your eye on that side of your
- Eye problems, such as
excessive tearing or a dry eye.
- Loss of ability to
- Pain in or behind your ear.
- Numbness in the
affected side of your face.
- Increased sensitivity to sound.
How is Bell's palsy diagnosed?
Your doctor may
diagnose Bell's palsy by asking you questions, such as about how your symptoms
developed. He or she will also give you a physical and neurological exam to
facial nerve function.
If the cause of your symptoms is not clear, you may need other tests, such as blood tests, an MRI, or a CT scan.
How is it treated?
Most people who have Bell's
palsy recover completely, without treatment, in 1 to 2 months.2
This is especially true for people who can still partly move their facial muscles. But a small number of people may have permanent muscle weakness or other problems on the
affected side of the face.
You may need to take a corticosteroid. This medicine can lower your risk for long-term problems from Bell’s palsy.3 Your doctor may also have you take antiviral medicine, such as acyclovir. Antiviral medicines used alone don’t help with Bell's palsy.4, 3