Bell's palsy symptoms may come on suddenly or develop over a few days. Initial symptoms may include:
- Pain behind the ear that is followed by weakness and paralysis of the face
- Ringing sound in the ears
- Slight hearing impairment
- Slight increase in sensitivity to sound on the affected side
Symptoms of advanced Bell's palsy may include:
- Facial weakness or paralysis, most often on one side
- Numbness just before the weakness starts
- Drooping corner of the mouth
- Decreased tearing
Inability to close an eye, which can lead to:
- Dry, red eyes
- Ulcers forming on the eye
- Problems with taste on one side
- Sound sensitivity in one ear
- Slurred speech
Late complications can occur 3-4 months after onset and can include:
- Long-lasting tightening of the facial muscles
- Tearing from eye while chewing
Symptoms will often go away on their own within a few weeks. Bell's palsy may resolve after a few months in many people. In some cases, some symptoms of Bell's palsy may never go away. The recovery rate decreases with increasing age.
Physicians will attempt to differentiate between between Bell’s palsy and other causes of facial weakness (including stroke and tumor). You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis is usually made with just the physical exam. Information from your health and medical history may be used to determine a potential cause.
Concern about infections, cancer, or other specific causes may require further testing. Tests may include:
- CT scan
- MRI scan
- Lumbar puncture
For Bell's palsy, treatment most frequently involves medications. You may be referred to a specialist if you have eye problems, if your symptoms worsen, or if your recovery takes longer than expected.
If the facial weakness is due to a cause other than Bell's palsy, treatment for underlying conditions may include medication or surgery.
Your doctor will likely prescribe corticosteroids if your symptoms have been present for a short time.
Antiviral medications along with corticosteroids may be advised. There is no evidence that antiviral medication alone has any benefit.
If the paralysis includes your eyelid, you may need to protect your eye. This may include:
- Lubricant or eye drops
- Covering and taping your eye closed at night
- An eye patch to keep the eye closed
Massaging the weakened facial muscles may also help.
Physical therapy may be advised to improve function.
Symptoms can be distressing. Counseling can help you manage emotional issues and make appropriate adjustments.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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Health Canada https://www.canada.ca
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