Bell’s Palsy

Bell’s Palsy is a sudden, one–sided, facial muscle paralysis. The cause of Bell’s Palsy is not always known. It may result from trauma, nerve compression, or infection of the facial nerve. The symptoms of Bell’s Palsy are muscle weakness and a distorted facial expression. The muscle paralysis is usually incomplete, meaning that a small amount of facial muscle response or movement may remain. Bell’s Palsy is usually temporary. It comes on quickly, but it may worsen over the next day or so. It can leave the face with no movement from the forehead to the mouth on the affected side. Pain around the ear often comes before or during the weakness, but usually lasts for only a few days. The face feels stiff and pulled to one side. The eye on the affected side droops, and may have trouble closing. There maybe trouble eating or with salivation. Many people complain of a disturbed sense of taste. The condition can alter speech and hearing. A doctor must rule out the possibility that a stroke occurred, which can cause similar symptoms. Patients usually begin to recover on their own within a few weeks. Complete recovery may take a few months. Only about 10 percent of patients are left with a poor outcome. Those who tend to have some long–term effects are persons who have rapid paralysis within a few days of onset. About 60 percent of patients recover completely without treatment. There are different opinions about the best way to treat Bell’s Palsy. Some doctors believe that no treatment is needed, whereas others prescribe cortisone–like drugs. A middle position may be to treat with medicines when the paralysis is rapid and complete, or if there is severe pain. Surgical procedures have not been helpful. It is important to protect the eye, if the eyelid cannot close. Eye drops or eye ointments and a patch will be needed in this case. Sometimes physical therapy is helpful.