Bell’s Palsy

What is Bell’s palsy? — Bell’s palsy is a condition that causes 1 side of a person’s face to become weak or droop. This can happen when 1 of the nerves that control the muscles in the face gets damaged or stops working. Damage to this nerve usually happens when the nerve becomes swollen or inflamed because of an infection with a virus.

Most people with Bell’s palsy recover completely. But some people have symptoms of Bell’s palsy for the rest of their life.

What are the symptoms of Bell’s palsy? — The symptoms can include:

●An eyebrow that sags on 1 side

●Drooping of 1 corner of the mouth

●1 eye that will not close completely

Some people with Bell’s palsy even lose the ability to taste on the front of their tongue. And some become sensitive to loud noises on the affected side.

Is there a test for Bell’s palsy? — No. There is no test. But your doctor or nurse should be able to tell if you have it by learning about your symptoms and doing an exam. Even so, your doctor or nurse might order tests to check whether you have a different medical problem that could be confused with Bell’s palsy.

Should I see a doctor or nurse? — Yes. If you have any symptoms of Bell’s palsy, see your doctor or nurse right away. Effective treatments exist, but they work best if you start them soon after your symptoms start.

How is Bell’s palsy treated? — Treatments include:

Medicines to reduce inflammation and swelling – Many people with Bell’s palsy get medicines called steroids. These are not the same as the steroids athletes take illegally. These steroids help bring down the swelling that is often the cause of Bell’s palsy.

Protection for your eyes – Bell’s palsy sometimes makes it impossible for you to close 1 of your eyes. If that happens, it’s important that you keep your eye moist and protected. Otherwise your eye can dry out and get damaged. Your doctor might prescribe eyedrops or ointments to protect your eye. You should also wear glasses or goggles during the day and an eye patch at night.

Medicines that help fight viruses – The swelling that causes Bell’s palsy might be triggered by viruses. For this reason, some people get “antiviral medicines,” which help them fight infection.

Will my face go back to normal? — Probably. Most people with Bell’s palsy start to get better within 3 weeks of when their symptoms start. But it can take them up to 6 months to get completely back to normal. Some people do not recover completely. They can have some weakness in their face that never goes away.