Understanding Bell’s Palsy: What Causes it and What Are the Symptoms and Treatments?

Bell’s palsy is a condition that has affected more than 40,000 people in the United States. It is a common disorder that affects our neurological system. It is characterized by symptoms where one side of a person’s face becomes paralyzed or frail and then droops. Another common symptom is a sense of speech that is impaired and drooling.

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Bell’s Palsy – What is it?

Bell’s palsy is a condition that is often associated with symptoms of stroke. However, it is a neurological disorder that is caused by a viral infection. This condition can gradually develop over time, or it can even strike suddenly within a 24 to 48 hour period.

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A clear indication of Bell’s palsy is when a person’s speech starts to slur, and their smile can appear crooked or at an abnormal angle. It is because of Bell’s palsy strikes on the nerves that play a role in controlling our facial expressions, tearing of eyes, sense of taste as well as hearing. Bell’s palsy can occur to anyone at any age. However, the condition is common in individuals between the ages of 16 to 60.  The condition is named after Charles Bell, who was a Scottish anatomist.

Some people describe a tingling sensation especially around the face when inflicted with Bell’s palsy. For other people, they may describe having teary eyes, being extra sensitive to loud sounds, a change in the sense of taste, mild headaches or pain that is felt behind the ears.

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Another name given to the condition is facial palsy. The main cause of the condition has also not been determined by researchers, suggesting that it is relative to viral infections. These viral infections include Epstein-Barr, herpes complex, and many more. People with Bell’s palsy often encounter symptoms that would generally begin to recuperate after a few weeks and recover entirely after six months. There are rare cases, however, where the symptoms are recurring and may even last longer.


What are the symptoms that indicate Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s palsy symptoms can often be difficult to determine because of the similarities with stroke symptoms. With that, it is important to seek out medical care as soon as possible to narrow down the possibility of conditions that may be life-threatening.

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For most, their experience of Bell’s palsy symptoms would include a peculiar numbing feeling around the eyes, face, and lips which eventually start to become paralyzed. Other symptoms also include:


–    One side of the person’s face starts to drop down towards the corner of the mouth

–    Some amounts of drooling and saliva production increases

–    Feeling extra sensitive to sounds

–    A painful sensation felt around the jaw

–    Pain felt behind the ear

–    Frequent headaches

–    Random muscle twitches

–    Inability to move the face like frowning or smiling

–    Change in taste buds

–    Amount and quality of tears changes

–    Difficulty in closing an eyelids


What are the possible causes of Bell’s palsy?

When the seventh cranial nerve is compressed or swollen, it causes facial paralysis and weakness. Researchers have suggested that Bell’s palsy is triggered by an infection from a specific type of virus. These viruses include:


–    HIV, since it damages our immune system

–    Sarcoidosis, which causes the organs to inflame

–    Herpes simplex, the cause of genital herpes and cold sores

–    Epstein-Barr virus

–    Herpes zoster virus, the virus that causes shingles and chickenpox

–    Lyme disease, a disease caused by ticks that are infected


Who are at risk of developing Bell’s palsy?

Though viruses are the possible causes of Bell’s palsy, certain conditions can often increase the chances of developing the condition as well. This includes:


–    Being pregnant



–    Diagnosed with diabetes

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–    Have family members with the condition

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–    Inflicted with infection in the lungs




How can bell’s palsy be diagnosed?

Although Bell’s palsy is a condition that is caused by a virus, it is not a contagious one. However, the virus that is causing the condition might be contagious.

To diagnose Bell’s palsy, the doctor will first conduct a physical and medical examination. The examination will verify how far the weakness is in the muscles of your face. Next, they will ask questions about the symptoms you’re experiencing, including when it started and when you started noticing them.

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How to treat Bell’s palsy?

Most of the time, Bell’s palsy will often improve after a few weeks even without medical intervention. However, your muscles will probably take a few weeks or even months to regain its strength.

There are several treatments you can try for treating Bell’s palsy condition. The two ways would be through medication or treatments at home.


Through medication, you can try:


–    Antibacterial or antibiotics, which are usually prescribed for the virus or bacteria causing Bell’s palsy



–    Pain medications to help relieve the pain

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–    Corticosteroid drugs to help reduce the inflammation



–    Eye drops to keep your eyes from drying out

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Through home or natural treatments, you can try:


–    Placing an eye patch over your affected eye, to avoid drying out


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–    Putting a moist and warm towel over your face to help relieve the pain

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–    Acupuncture

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–    Facial massages

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–    Physical therapy workouts specifically targeting the muscles on the face

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Final thoughts

People with Bell’s palsy can often do away with the condition without any further problems. However, the time for recovery may often take time as it depends on how damaged the cranial nerves are.

Still, visit or call your doctor as soon as possible if you’re displaying or feeling signs and symptoms of Bell’s palsy. It can rule out any severe problems in the future, and it can also quicken your time for recovery to prevent other complications.

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