Bells Palsy

Overview

Definition

Bell palsy is a sudden weakness on one side of the face.

Bell Palsy: Facial Droop
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Causes

The exact cause is not known. It is thought to be a result of an infection that affects the nerve, such as the herpes simplex virus and Lyme disease .

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this health problem are:

  • Diabetes
  • Being in the third trimester of pregnancy

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

Symptoms may start all at once or get worse over 48 hours. They may be:

  • Twitching, weakness, or paralysis, most often on one side
  • Drooping corner of the mouth
  • Drooling
  • Drooping or problems closing an eye, which can cause dry eye
  • Excess tears from an eye
  • Loss of taste
  • Sensitivity to sounds
  • Pain in the jaw or ear
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis. Some people may need to see a doctor who treats eyes.

Treatments

Treatment

Bell palsy often gets better on its own within a few weeks. Full healing may take 3 to 6 months. The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms during this time. This can be done with:

Medication

Corticosteroids may be given to ease swelling. They may be given with anti-viral medicine to ease severe symptoms in some people.

Self-care

Eye care may be needed in some people. This may include:

  • Lubricant or eye drops
  • Covering and taping the eye closed at night
  • An eye patch to keep the eye closed

Therapy

Physical therapy may be needed. It may include facial exercises.

Prevention

There are no methods to prevent Bell palsy.

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.

RESOURCES

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov 

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke http://www.ninds.nih.gov 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Health Canada https://www.canada.ca 

Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca 

References

Bell's palsy. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/bells-palsy.html. Updated October 6, 2017. Accessed October 11, 2019.

Bell's palsy. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/?q=node/1465. Updated August 2018. Accessed October 11, 2019.

Bell palsy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/condition/bell-palsy  . Updated February 28, 2018. Accessed October 11, 2019.

Bell’s palsy information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Bells-Palsy-Information-Page. Updated March 27, 2019. Accessed October 11, 2019.

de Almeida JR, Guyatt GH, et al. Management of Bell palsy: clinical practice guideline. CMAJ. 2014 Sep 2;186(12):917-922.

Schwartz SR, Jones SL, Getchius TS, Gronseth GS. Reconciling the clinical practice guidelines on Bell’s palsy from the AA-HNSF and the AAN. Neurology. 2014;82(21):1927-1929.