What is Bell's Palsy?

Bell's Palsy a medical condition that causes a sudden paralysis or temporary weakness in the muscles in your face. The weakened or paralyzed face muscles can result in one side of your face being droopy or saggy, your smile appearing to be one-sided, and it can affect your ability to close one of your eyes completely. Bell's Palsy is a temporary condition for most people as after about a month the symptoms will start to improve.

Causes of Bell's Palsy

Doctors and scientists have yet to discover the exact reason why people are affected by Bell's Palsy; however, it often affects people in conjunction with some viral infections such as:

  • Herpes zoster virus (chickenpox and shingles)
  • Epstein-barr virus or mononucleosis (mono)
  • Herpes simplex (genital herpes and cold sores)
  • HIV
  • Flu
  • Sarcoidosis (organ inflammation)
  • Hand-foot-and-mouth disease
  • Lyme disease (from infected ticks)
  • Mumps
  • Cytomegalovirus infections
  • Respiratory infections
  • Mumps

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Bell's Palsy

Bell's Palsy symptoms will usually develop suddenly (hours to a couple days), usually starting one or two weeks after the infections or diseases noted above. Some of the symptoms of Bell's Palsy are listed below:

  • Quickly developing weakness, or paralysis, to one side of your face
  • Droopy or saggy face
  • Difficulty performing normal facial muscle movements such as smiling, or closing one of your eyes
  • Drooling
  • Headaches
  • Eating and drinking difficulty
  • Facial twitching
  • Jaw pain
  • Pain around the ear on the weakened side of your face
  • Headaches
  • Decreased taste sensitivity
  • Increased hearing sensitivity

Diagnosis of Bell's Palsy will involve your doctor performing a physical examination and review of your symptoms. Your ENT specialist may have you demonstrate different facial movements to observe the muscles in your face. A Blood test, MRI, and CT scan may also be used to examine your facial nerves and confirm a Bell's Palsy diagnosis.

Treatments for Bell's Palsy

Most people that are affected by Bell's Palsy will recover without treatment over the course of several weeks to a few months. It may take additional time for the muscles in your face to return to full strength. In addition to time, your ENT specialist may recommend the following medication options:

  • Over-the-counter pain medication
  • Eye drops
  • Inflammation reducing medication such as corticosteroids
  • Antiviral medication or antibiotics if your doctor believes that an infection led to your Bell's Palsy

All information provided on this website is for information purposes only. Please see a healthcare professional for medical advice. If you are seeking this information in an emergency situation, please call 911 and seek emergency help.

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