Bell palsy is a sudden weakness on one side of the face.
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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.
Things that may raise the risk of this health problem are:
- Being in the third trimester of pregnancy
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
- 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
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.
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:
Corticosteroids may be given to ease swelling. They may be given with anti-viral medicine to ease severe symptoms in some people.
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
Physical therapy may be needed. It may include facial exercises.
There are no methods to prevent Bell palsy.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Public Health Agency of Canada
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.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD Last Updated: 10/11/2019