Bell’s Palsy causes sudden weakness in your facial muscles on one side of your face. This makes half your face appear to droop. Your smile is one-sided, and your eye on that side resists closing completely. It can occur at any age. The facial palsy is believed to be the result of swelling and inflammation of the nerve that controls the muscles on one side of your face. It has been linked to the same chickenpox virus that causes shingles, and the virus that causes cold sores, and other viral infections. The paralysis does not affect the rest of your body, and only rarely affects both sides of the face.
The nerve that controls your facial muscles passes through a narrow corridor of bone behind your ear on its way to the facial muscles. It can become inflamed and swollen. The result can be mild weakness to total paralysis on that side of your face. There may or may not be pain behind your ear or around the jaw, and changes in the amount of tears produced.
Always seek immediate medical help if you experience any type of paralysis because you may be having a stroke. Bell’s palsy does not cause and is not caused by a stroke. If you experience facial weakness or drooping, see your doctor to determine the underlying cause and to find out if medication will help.
Since the eye on the affected side of the face doesn’t close fully or blink normally, a patient needs to protect that eye with lubricating drops during the day and eye ointment at night. It is also helpful to patch the eye to prevent excessive dryness and scratching of the cornea, especially at night. Some patients report applying a warm wet washcloth on their face several times a day to be helpful. Also massaging the facial muscles can help them to relax.
For most people, Bell’s Palsy is temporary, lasting from a few weeks to months, and most patients recover fully.
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