What is Bell’s palsy?
Bell’s palsy is the weakness or paralysis of the nerves that enable us to use and control our facial muscles. Symptoms of Bell’s palsy can range in severity from mild weakness to full paralysis. It often presents acutely, with the sudden onset of symptoms, including facial drooping on one or both sides of the face, inability to fully close the eye(s) or mouth, and pain on the affected side(s) of the face. Individuals suffering Bell’s palsy may also experience headaches, sensitivity to sound, altered taste, altered saliva and tear production, twitching and abnormal facial movements.
Symptoms of Bell’s palsy are often temporary, and can improve with time, although some individuals experience permanent nerve damage. Bell’s palsy can reoccur in rare circumstances.
What causes Bell’s palsy?
Bell’s palsy occurs when the nerves that control the facial muscles become inflamed and swollen. While the exact cause of this is not definitively known, viral infections have been associated with the onset of Bell’s palsy. Trauma and other conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure, have also been associated with the onset of Bell’s palsy.
How is Bell’s palsy diagnosed and treated?
Bell’s palsy is diagnosed based on a doctor’s clinical examination and often after stroke is ruled out. Other testing, such as EMG or MRI testing, can support a diagnosis of Bell’s palsy.
Steroids may be used to reduce inflammation, and antiviral medications and/or pain medications may be utilized as well. Physical therapy can help to stimulate recovery in the affected facial nerves.