Although usually temporary, Bell’s Palsy can be a difficult condition live with. It can strike at any age and is a common cause of facial paralysis. Symptoms of the condition tend to start without warning, with paralysis or weakness of one side of the face being the main one. You may find your eyes become watery or dry and some patients develop pain behind the ear, or suffer with mild earache. It can be difficult to close the eyes and one of the eyebrows may appear to sag. The mouth can also droop and you may find it difficult to speak.
What causes Bell’s Palsy?
The herpes simplex virus is responsible for the condition. It often lies dormant within the root of the nerve and can lead to cold sores. If it reactivates in the nerve, it can cause swelling.
It’s estimated that 75 per cent of people who develop Bell’s Palsy spontaneously recover. The majority of people see significant improvements in three to eight weeks. However, it’s possible it could take up to six months to see any improvement.
What are the treatment options for Bell’s Palsy?
There are a number of treatments available that can make it a little easier to deal with the condition. Artificial tears can be used to ensure the eyes remain moist, while an eye pad can be worn during the night to ensure it stays closed as you sleep. To prevent damage to the nerve and to ease swelling, oral steroids can be prescribed for ten days. These are usually more effective if taken within three days of the onset of any symptoms.
The herpes virus itself can be treated with prescribed antivirals such as Valaciclovir. However, there isn’t actually much proof that these work to treat the condition. Some patients may also find physiotherapy and facial exercises help to speed up recovery.
What results can I expect from treatment for Bell’s Palsy?
Of those affected, an estimated 15 per cent end up with residual facial weakness, facial spasms or muscle tightness. If you’re left with facial tightness or spasms, botulinum injections can help to balance out the facial movements. If you’re suffering with eye closure or residual facial weakness, a number of surgical options may help. You can find out more about these on the following pages:
- Facial Palsy: Introduction
- Bell’s Palsy and treatment
- Dynamic muscle transfer
- Static correction
- Eyelid surgery
- Adjunctive Procedures – Brow and Facelift