Bell's Palsy

What is Bell's palsy?
Bell’s 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.

Bell’s 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 respiratory ailment.

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 palsy?
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
  • headache
  • tearing
  • drooling
  • loss of the sense of taste on the front two-thirds of the tongue
  • hypersensitivity to sound in the affected ear
  • 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 eyelid

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 with:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • trauma
  • toxins
  • Lyme disease
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • sarcoidosis
  • myasthenia gravis
  • infection

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.