Bell's palsy is a sudden weakness or paralysis on one side of the face which may occur without an obvious explanation. However, it is usually a temporary condition. Recovery rate decreases with increasing age.
The exact cause of Bell's palsy is unknown. It is thought to be a result an infection or inflammation in the nerve.
Nerve infections include:
- Herpes simplex
Bell's palsy is a sudden weakness or paralysis on one side of the face which may occur without an obvious explanation. However, it is
usually a temporary condition. Recovery rate decreases with increasing age.
Bell's Palsy: Facial Droop Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis is usually made with just the physical exam. The doctor may use information from your health and medical history to determine a potential cause.
Concern about infections or other specific causes may require further testing.
There are no current guidelines to prevent Bell's palsy.
Factors that may increase your risk of Bell's palsy include:
- Family members who have Bell's palsy
- Autoimmune disorders
Infections, such as
- Weakened immune system
or linezolid use
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 full-blown 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 completely resolve after a few months in many people. In some cases, some symptoms of Bell's palsy may never go away.
For most, treatment is not needed. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist if you have eye problems, if your symptoms worsen, or if your recovery takes longer than expected.
If an underlying cause of the Bell's palsy is known, it may be treated. Treatment for underlying conditions may include medication or surgery.