What is Bell's palsy?
Bells palsy is an unexplained episode of facial muscle weakness or
paralysis that begins suddenly and worsens over 3 to 5 days. This
condition results from damage to the 7th (facial) cranial nerve, and may
be accompanied by pain or discomfort on one side of the face and head.
Bells palsy strikes men and woman
equally, usually between the ages of 15 and 60. This nerve disorder
afflicts approximately 40,000 Americans each year, and is most often seen
in pregnant women, or persons with diabetes, influenza, a cold, or other
It is named for Sir Charles Bell, a
Scottish surgeon and physiologist, for his work on facial palsy. In 1821,
he demonstrated that the facial nerve was a separate nerve.
What are the symptoms of Bell's
The following are the most common symptoms of Bell's palsy, however,
individuals may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- loss of feeling in the face
- loss of the sense of taste on the front
two-thirds of the tongue
- hypersensitivity to sound in the
- inability to close the eye on the
affected side of the face
- affects the muscles that control facial
expressions such as smiling, squinting, blinking, or closing the
The symptoms of Bell's palsy may resemble
other conditions or medical problems. Consult a physician for diagnosis.
What causes Bell's palsy?
A specific cause of Bell's palsy is unknown, however, it has been
suggested that the disorder may be inherited. It also may be associated
- high blood pressure
- Lyme disease
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
- myasthenia gravis
Treatment for Bell's palsy:
One uniformly recommended treatment for Bell's Palsy is protecting
the eye from drying at nighttime. Eye care, which may include eyedrops
during the day, ointment at bedtime, and a moisture chamber at night,
helps to protect the cornea from scratching, which is crucial to the
management of Bell's palsy. Your physician will establish an appropriate
treatment protocol for your condition based on the severity of your
symptoms and your medical profile. Other treatment options include:
- medication - to reduce inflammation
- analgesics - to relieve pain
Prognosis of Bell's palsy:
Currently, there is no known cure for Bell's palsy. Recovery usually
begins 3 weeks to 6 months from the onset of the symptoms. Recurrence of
symptoms at a future time is rare, although some patients do experience
residual problems. The majority of people with Bell's palsy recover full
facial strength and expression, usually over weeks to months. Typically,
it improves in 4-6 months and almost always by 12 months.