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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Bell's palsy


Other Names for this Disease
  • Facial palsy
  • Facial cranial nerve paralysis
  • Bell palsy
  • Antoni's palsy
  • Facial nerve palsy
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

I was diagnosed with Bell's palsy about 2 years ago. Although I was told that the symptoms would resolve within a few months, I continue to have recurrent ear infections and issues with my right eye. What treatments are available for this condition?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is Bell's palsy?

Bell's palsy is a form of temporary facial paralysis which results from damage or trauma to one of the facial nerves. This disorder is characterized by the sudden onset of facial paralysis that often affects just one side and can cause significant facial distortion. Symptoms vary, but may include twitching, weakness, drooping eyelid or corner of the mouth, drooling, dry eye or mouth, impairment of taste, and excessive tearing in the eye. While the exact cause is unknown, many researchers believe that a virus may lead to swelling of the 7th cranial nerve. Steroids, such as prednisone, may reduce the inflammation and swelling.[1][2] Other medications used to treat Bell's palsy include acyclovir (to fight viral infections) and aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen (to relieve pain).[2] Physical therapy, facial massage and acupuncture have also been used.[1][2]

Last updated: 1/22/2016

How might Bell's palsy be treated?

Some cases of Bell's palsy are mild and do not require treatment.[1][3] In these cases, symptoms may subside on their own within 2 weeks.[3] For those cases that do require treatment, steroids such as prednisone have been used with success to reduce inflammation and swelling.  Other medications such as acyclovir --used to fight viral infections -- may shorten the course of the disease.  Analgesics such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen may relieve pain. Because of possible drug interactions, patients should always talk to their doctors before taking any over-the-counter medicines. Keeping the eye moist and protected from debris and injury is important. Other therapies such as physical therapy, facial massage or acupuncture may also be used.[2][3] In general, decompression surgery for Bell's palsy is controversial and is seldom recommended.[3]

Last updated: 1/24/2016

Are there additional or alternative treatments for individuals who have resistant or residual symptoms of Bell's palsy?

Individuals with longstanding cases of Bell's palsy may be dealing with residual symptoms like synkinesis, cross-wiring, hypertonic muscles and spasms. For these individuals, regaining the capability of performing correct facial movements is the goal. This may be accomplished through focused practice with guidance from a specially-trained physical therapist. This practice, called facial retraining, can be customized to each individual patient's needs.[4][5] 

Other therapies that may be useful for some individuals include relaxation techniques, acupuncture, electrical stimulation, biofeedback training, and vitamin therapy (including vitamin B12, B6, and zinc), which may help nerve growth.[3] Other therapies include Botox for synkinesis, hypertonicity and muscle spasms, reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, and nerve and muscle grafts and transpositions.[6][7]

Additional information about the treatment of Bell's palsy can be found at the following link from the Bell's Palsy Information Site: http://www.bellspalsy.ws/treatment.htm

This site also provides a resource which lists treatment centers which offer acute care and/or treatment of longstanding cases of Bell's palsy. Visit the following link to access this list of facilities.
http://www.bellspalsy.ws/centers.htm
Last updated: 1/12/2010

What is the prognosis for individuals with Bell's palsy?

The prognosis for individuals with Bell's palsy is generally very good. The extent of nerve damage determines the extent of recovery.  With or without treatment, most individuals begin to get better within 2 weeks after the initial onset of symptoms and recover completely within 3 to 6 months.[2][3] For some, however, the symptoms may last longer. In a few cases, the symptoms may never completely disappear. In rare cases, the disorder may recur, either on the same or the opposite side of the face.[3]

Last updated: 1/24/2016

References
Other Names for this Disease
  • Facial palsy
  • Facial cranial nerve paralysis
  • Bell palsy
  • Antoni's palsy
  • Facial nerve palsy
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.