Bell’s Palsy is a condition resulting from damage to the facial nerve, leaving the victim with paralysis or weakness on one side of the face. The facial nerve controls the movements of the face. Any drooping or weakness of the movements of the facial muscles, either gradual or sudden, should be evaluated as soon as possible.
Bell’s Palsy is one of the most common causes of sudden facial paralysis, with an incidence of 20-30 cases per 100,000 people. Trauma to the temporal bone that surrounds the middle and inner ear, is another common cause of acute facial paralysis. Although the true cause of Bell’s Palsy is unclear, it is frequently associated with other viruses, infections or diseases. Patients with diabetes seem to have 4-5 times more risk of developing Bell’s Palsy.
Bell’s Palsy almost always affects one side of the face, but is occasionally bilateral. The prognosis for Bell’s palsy is generally good, with 85-90% of patients recovering completely within 4-6 weeks. In those patients without complete paralysis of the face, the chances of a complete recovery approach 95%.
When diagnosing Bell’s Palsy, it is important to rule out other causes of facial paralysis including tumors in the brain or parotid gland (saliva gland located next to your ear) and other medical problems which might affect facial nerve functioning. An MRI is usually performed to check for possible causes of facial paralysis. For optimal recovery outcomes, treatment must be initiated quickly and usually involves steroids and/or an antiviral medication. Occasionally, the facial nerve can be surgically decompressed, but it must be performed within two weeks of onset. As such, urgent evaluation of facial weakness or paralysis is critical, so please contact us to schedule an appointment.