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Bell's Palsy

What is Bell's Palsy?

Bell's Palsy is a nonprogressive neurological disorder of the 7th cranial nerve (a nerve in the face). It causes partial facial paralysis and afflicts approximately 40,000 Americans a year. Most people with Bell's Palsy develop a rapid onset of facial weakness. This usually takes place over several hours to a day, and in most cases it involves only one side of the face.

Who gets Bell's Palsy?

The cause of Bell's Palsy is unknown, however, viral infection, autoimmune disease, and micro-circulation problems are suspected causes. There is sometimes a family history of Bell's Palsy. Bell's Palsy can be recurrent (about 20% of those who suffer from Bell's Palsy will have a reoccurrence), and some people with Bell's Palsy have symptoms of a virus.

How is Bell's Palsy diagnosed?

Electrodiagnostic tests are used to assess how badly the nerve is damaged. Electrodiagnostic testing can help answer the question regarding the recovery time. Most people see some improvement of their weakness within 3 weeks of onset and the majority of people have excellent function 1 year later.

How is Bell's Palsy treated?

When patient develops Bell's Palsy they want to know what caused the weakness or paralysis, how long it will last, and what they can do to make it improve or what they should do until it improves. The most important treatment is to protect the eye. Tears keep your eyes moist through blinking. Often with Bell's Palsy the ability to blink is reduced or eliminated which can result in drying, erosion, and ulcer formation on the cornea and possible loss of the eye. Your doctor will often prescribe a lubricant for your eye.

More information on Bell's Palsy

Bell's Palsy Information Site
Bell's Palsy Resource Center