Bell's palsy is a nerve disorder that causes partial or slight paralysis on one side of the face. You may notice that you cannot smile on one side. Sometimes, patients with Bell's palsy temporarily cannot close one eyelid completely, which may lead to eye irritation or the feeling of something stuck in the eye.
People with Bell's palsy may experience facial numbness, although their skin usually retains some sensation. Pain may occur either before the paralysis begins or as it develops.
Other symptoms may include:
Decreased tear production
Diminished taste sensations
Distortions or discomfort in your hearing
We may have you use eye lubricants or eye drops to keep the eye moist. Be sure that you carefully follow your doctor's instructions about eye drops or other treatments. This is important because when your eyelid cannot close properly, your eye becomes at risk for irritation, dryness, and other problems.
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe drugs called corticosteroids or antivirals to assist the healing process.
In over 80% of cases, Bell's palsy disappears on its own. This recovery process typically begins within three weeks of the disease's onset and is complete after two to three months. While symptoms improve, a small amount of mild facial paralysis or movement irregularity may remain. In fewer than 20% of cases, symptoms of Bell's palsy do not get better.
We will want to determine whether all branches of the facial nerve are involved, or whether the forehead muscles are spared. Your doctor will test to see if you can wrinkle your forehead. If you can do that, it means your facial palsy is caused by a problem in the brain rather than in the facial nerve itself. In general, Bell's palsy is diagnosed by excluding any other reasonable causes.
Often, no specific cause can be found for Bell's palsy. If facial paralysis does not begin to improve after several weeks, your doctor may recommend an MRI test to rule out the rare possibility of a tumor.
In general, the cause of Bell's palsy is unknown. It may result from problems in the body's immune system. It may occur if blood flow to the facial nerve is blocked or constricted. Or it may involve inflammation caused by viral infections. Bell's palsy occurs more frequently in people who have diabetes, in those who have a family history of Bell's palsy, and in pregnant women. In recent years, two new suspects have been added to the possible causes of Bell's palsy: Lyme disease and Herpes simplex