Bell palsy is a sudden weakness on one side of the face.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
The exact cause is not known. It is thought to be a result of an infection that affects the nerve. Herpes simplex virus and Lyme disease are some examples.
The risk of bell palsy may be highest in:
- Those with diabetes
- Third trimester of pregnancy
Symptoms may start all at once or get worse over 48 hours. People may have:
- Twitching, weakness, or paralysis, most often on 1 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 past health. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis. Some people may need to see an eye specialist.
Bell palsy can get better on its own within a few weeks. Full healing may take 3 to 6 months. Treatment may be needed to manage more severe symptoms.
- Corticosteroids may be given to ease swelling. They may be given with antiviral medicine to ease severe symptoms in some people.
- Eye care may be needed if they eyelid cannot close properly. Eye care 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. Facial exercises can help during recovery.
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. Accessed October 11, 2020.
Bell's palsy. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/?q=node/1465. Accessed October 11, 2020.
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. Accessed October 11, 2020.
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 October 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD Last Updated: 12/12/2020