Bell's palsy is a sudden
but usually temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles
on one side of the face.
More to Know
Everyone has two facial nerves,
one on each side of the head, that carry messages from the brain to the face. These
messages may tell an eyelid to close, one side of the mouth to smile or frown, or
salivary glands to make spit.
With Bell's palsy, one of the facial nerves swells and gets compressed as it passes
through a small hole at the base of the skull. The compressed nerve can't send messages
correctly, resulting in weakness or temporary paralysis on one side of the face.
Some people with Bell's palsy have only slight weakness; others may not be able
to move that side of their face at all. Other symptoms may include headaches, a drooping
or sagging appearance on the affected side of the face, and difficulty fully shutting
Bell's palsy is most often associated with a viral
infection, but it can also be related to ear infections, bad colds, or trauma
to the head or face. Usually, the virus or infection that leads to Bell's palsy has
passed, so often there's no specific treatment for the condition. It goes away once
the swelling of the nerve goes down and the nerve recovers from any damage.
In some cases, doctors can give medicine such as steroids to help reduce the swelling,
or prescribe an eye patch or eye drops if the person's eye is dry. Lyme
disease is a common cause of Bell's palsy, and treatment with antibiotics is recommended
in these cases.
Keep in Mind
Bell's palsy should be diagnosed and evaluated by a doctor. Most people with Bell's
palsy recover fully within 1 to 3 months with or without treatment, although some
may have permanent weakness in their face afterward.
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