Bell’s palsy is a condition that causes the muscles on one side of the face to become weakened or paralysed; the condition may also affect the muscles around the eye, which may prevent the patient from closing their eye. Bell’s palsy is a rare condition that only affects around 25 in 100,000 people.
What causes Bell’s palsy?
The cause of Bell’s palsy remains unknown; however, scientists have discovered a link between the condition and the herpes virus. The virus causes the facial nerve to become inflamed; when the nerve swells it becomes compressed against the cheek bone; this can cause damage to the nerve and prevent the successful delivery of nerve signals that control the movement of the muscles in the face.
What are the symptoms of Bell’s palsy?
Most patients develop symptoms quickly over a short period of time; common symptoms include:
- Weakness in the muscles on one side of the face
- Paralysis on one side of the face
- Difficulty losing the eye on the affected side of the face
- Irritation in the affected eye
- Pain below the ear on the affected side of the face
- Increased sensitivity to noise in that affected ear
Treating Bell’s palsy
Bell’s palsy is usually treated with a steroid called prednisolone, which helps to reduce inflammation. Patients may also be advised to use eye drops. Most patients make a full recovery within 9 months of experiencing symptoms; however, in some cases, more long-term damage may have been caused. Physiotherapy may help to gradually increase movement in the muscles; plastic surgery may also be considered if the physical appearance of the face has been altered.