Bell’s palsy is a condition in which the muscles on one side of your face become weak or paralyzed. It affects only one side of the face at a time, causing it to droop or become stiff on that side.
It’s caused by some kind of trauma to the seventh cranial nerve. This is also called the “facial nerve.” Bell’s palsy can happen to anyone. But it seems to occur more often in people who have diabetes or are recovering from viral infections.
Most of the time, symptoms are only temporary.
What Causes It?
Most doctors believe that it’s due to damage to the facial nerve, which causes swelling. This nerve passes through a narrow, bony area within the skull. When the nerve swells — even a little bit — it pushes against the skull’s hard surface. This affects how well the nerve works.
Researchers have long believed that viral infections may also play a role in the development of Bell’s palsy. They’ve found evidence that suggests the herpes simplex 1 virus (a common cause of cold sores) may be responsible for a large number of cases.
What Are the Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy?
The symptoms of Bell’s palsy tend to come on all of a sudden. You may go to bed one night feeling fine. But when you look in the mirror the next morning, you see that part of your face seems to be drooping.
ou might also notice the following things before the onset of Bell’s palsy (remember that these symptoms will probably only happen on one side of your face):
- You’re unable to close your eyelid or blink
- Your eye waters more or less than usual
- Difficulty chewing
- Decreased sense of taste
- Your facial muscles twitch
- Pain or numbness behind your ear
Facial weakness and drooping typically reach their peak within a day or two. Most people start to feel better within a couple of weeks. They usually recover completely within 3 months. Some people who develop Bell’s palsy have a longer recovery period. In rare cases, they may have some permanent symptoms.