Recognizing Bell’s palsy and when to seek help

Bell’s palsy causes sudden weakness in your facial muscles. This makes half of your face appear to droop.

 

Bell’s palsy, also known as facial palsy, can occur at any age. The exact cause is unknown, but it’s believed to be the result of swelling and inflammation of the nerve that controls the muscles on one side of your face.

For most people, Bell’s palsy is temporary. Symptoms usually start to improve within a few weeks, with complete recovery in about six months. A small number of people continue to have some Bell’s palsy symptoms for life. Rarely, Bell’s palsy can recur.

Signs and symptoms of Bell’s palsy come on suddenly and may include:

Rapid onset of mild weakness to total paralysis on one side of your face – occurring within hours to days

Facial droop and difficulty making facial expressions

Drooling

Increased sensitivity to sound on the affected side

Headache

A decrease in your ability to taste

In rare cases, Bell’s palsy can affect the nerves on both sides of your face.

CAUSES

Although the exact reason Bell’s palsy occurs isn’t clear, it’s often linked to exposure to a viral infection. Viruses that have been linked to Bell’s palsy include the virus that causes:

Cold sores and genital herpes

Chickenpox and shingles

Mononucleosis

Cytomegalovirus infections

Respiratory illnesses

German measles

Mumps

Flu

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease

With Bell’s palsy, the nerve that controls your facial muscles becomes inflamed and swollen – usually related to a viral infection.

WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR

Seek immediate medical help if you experience any type of paralysis because you may be having a stroke. Bell’s palsy is not caused by a stroke. See your doctor if you experience facial weakness or drooping to determine the underlying cause and severity of the illness.

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