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Bell's Palsy - Topic Overview

How is it treated?

Most people who have Bell's palsy recover completely, without treatment, in 1 to 2 months.1 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.

Treatment with corticosteroid medicines (such as prednisone) can make it more likely that you will regain all facial movement. They work best if they are taken soon after symptoms start (within 3 days). Sometimes antiviral medicines (such as acyclovir) may be added to corticosteroid medicines to treat Bell's palsy. But evidence for using antiviral medicines is weak. They may help in some cases, but in general they do not affect recovery.2

Some people may not be able to take corticosteroid medicines because of other health problems. It's important to remember that most people with Bell's palsy recover completely without any treatment.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Facial exercises. As the nerve in your face begins to work again, doing simple exercises—such as tightening and relaxing your facial muscles—may make those muscles stronger and help you recover more quickly. Massaging your forehead, cheeks, and lips with oil or cream may also help.

Eye care. If you can't blink or close your eye fully, your eye may become dry. A dry eye can lead to sores and serious vision problems. To help protect the eye and keep it moist:

  • Use your finger to close and open your eyelid often throughout the day.
  • Use eyedrops ("artificial tears") or ointment. Those that contain methylcellulose are a good choice and don't require a prescription. You may want to use drops during the day and ointment at night while you sleep. Ask your doctor how often to use the drops.
  • Wear an eye patch while you sleep, and wear glasses or goggles the rest of the time.

Mouth care. If you have no feeling and little saliva on one side of your tongue, food may get stuck there, leading to gum disease or tooth decay. Brush and floss your teeth often and well to help prevent these problems. To prevent swallowing problems, eat slowly and chew your food well. Eating soft, smooth foods, such as yogurt, may also help.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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