EIRMC Close Window
Library Search Go Advanced Search
Español (Inicio)

HealthSheets™

Bell’s Palsy

Bell’s palsy is a nerve disorder that usually happens suddenly and without warning. This condition happens when a nerve that controls facial movement is swollen, inflamed, or compressed. Nerve damage can happen for many reasons. But most cases of Bell’s palsy are probably caused by a virus.

Symptoms of Bell’s palsy

Here are signs of the disorder: 

  • Weakness, twitching, or total paralysis of one side of your face (in rare cases, on both sides)

  • Drooping of the eyelid and mouth, drooling on one side of mouth

  • Trouble closing one eye completely, and excessive tearing

  • Noises seeming louder than usual

  • Ringing in one or both ears

  • Change in your sense of taste

When to go to the emergency room (ER)

There are conditions, such as stroke, that may look like Bell's palsy and are medical emergencies. Therefore, you should seek emergent medical care if you notice facial weakness or drooping. Although Bell’s palsy can be alarming, it’s rarely serious. Many people begin to improve in about 2 weeks, even without treatment. It is important to be seen as soon as possible. Most research shows that treatment is best when received within the first few days of symptoms. 

Treatment

To treat Bell’s palsy, you may be given steroid medicines. This helps reduce swelling of the affected nerve. In some cases, your healthcare provider may prescribe an antiviral medicine. Your open eye may be covered with a patch to prevent it from drying out. You also may need to use eye drops and ointments for a time. Physical therapy, facial massage, or acupuncture may also be prescribed. Your healthcare provider will discuss follow-up care with you, including the possible need for further treatment to help your facial muscles return to normal.

© 2000-2018 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.