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Bell’s Palsy: Diagnosis & Treatment

Bell’s palsy is a paralysis of the muscles on only one side of your face. The damage is caused to the facial nerve which controls muscles on that particular side of the face, causing that side to droop a little. The nerve damage might also affect one’s sense of taste as well as the body’s production of tears and saliva. This condition sets in suddenly, many times overnight, and usually gets better within a few weeks on its own.

The condition is not the result of a stroke because while strokes can also cause facial paralysis, scientific studies have shown there is no link between strokes and Bell’s palsy. Keep in mind that sudden weakness which occurs only on one side of your face should not be ignored. It should be checked by a doctor immediately to rule out Bell’s palsy.

What causes Bell’s palsy?

Nobody knows the cause behind this condition is, but, a lot of cases are thought to be caused by the herpes virus which also causes cold sores.

What are its symptoms?

Symptoms include:

  • Paralysis or weakness in only one side of your face causing it to droop.
  • Drooling.
  • Loss of one’s ability to taste.
  • Pain inside or behind ear.
  • Eye problems like excessive tearing, or dry eyes.
  • Numbness in the side of your face affected by palsy
  • Increased sensitivity to sound.

How does the condition progress?

Without any treatment, recovery from Bell’s palsy occurs in almost 85% of its cases. With professional treatment, the chances of complete recovery become improved with the functioning of the nerve returning to normal. Symptoms start improving after around 2-3 weeks, and are usually gone within 2 months. But in some cases it can take up to 12 months to recover completely.

In yet other cases, the symptoms do not go away completely, with a little weakness remaining permanently. But this weakness is very slight and is most of the times barely noticeable. It is very rare to show no improvement at all.

How is Bell’s Palsy diagnosed?

Bell’s palsy is diagnosed by doctors after understanding your condition and asking you questions which include how your symptoms developed. They will also give you a physical as well as a neurological exam to check the facial nerve function of your body. Further tests like MRI, blood tests and a CT scan may be required if the doctor is still unable to diagnose you.

How is it treated?

A majority of the people who have Bell’s palsy manage to recover completely on their own without treatment within a time span of two months. However, a small number of people may face permanent muscle weakness or other similar problems even after recovery on the affected side of their face.

Some patients might be required to take a medicine by the name of corticosteroid. It can lower one’s risk for long-term damages from Bell’s palsy. Others might be asked to take antiviral medicine like acyclovir, but they are usually combined with other medicines because on their own, antiviral medicines are useless for those suffering from Bell’s palsy.

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