Bell’s Palsy

What Is Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s palsy is characterized by muscle weakness in one side of the face. The condition develops in a short amount of time, typically within 24 hours, and causes the face to droop or stiffen. Bell’s palsy can range from mild weakness that causes difficulty with closing the eyelid to severe symptoms that cause complete paralysis of the affected side of the face.

What Are the Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy?

A variety of symptoms can occur as Bell’s palsy develops. Individuals may notice the following in addition to their facial weakness:

  • Excessive tearing
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Decreased ability to taste
  • Altered hearing
  • Twitching facial muscles

Symptoms of Bell’s palsy are usually temporary, gradually fading over the course of several weeks. People who develop Bell’s palsy may initially think they are having a stroke. However, symptoms of the two medical conditions can be distinguished in that Bell’s palsy causes weakness in one side of the face, while a stroke affects the face as well as other muscles throughout the body.

What Are Common Causes of Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s palsy is believed to develop due to the facial nerve being damaged, which leads to swelling and inflammation that impairs its function. This is most often linked to underlying conditions like viral infections.

What Can I Expect During Bell’s Palsy Treatment?

Bell’s palsy may begin to resolve on its own within a couple weeks. Symptoms typically continue to fade over the following months, though in rare cases individuals may have permanent damage. To diagnosis the condition, our eye doctors will first ensure that another condition is not causing the symptoms. This will entail a physical exam as well as potential imaging tests.

Treatment for Bell’s palsy is designed to resolve the suspected underlying condition as well as alleviate the symptoms being experienced. Common treatment options our doctors recommend include oral steroids, antivirals, and eye lubrication. In severe cases of Bell’s palsy where symptoms do not improve, surgery may become necessary to decrease pressure on the facial nerve. Our ophthalmologist Mary Catherine Fischer, MD will discuss the appropriate treatment options with each patient during their appointment.

For more information about Bell’s palsy, please contact Eye Doctors of Washington to schedule an appointment with Dr. Fischer.

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