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What can I do to protect my eyes while I have Bell's palsy symptoms?

David R. Demartini, MD
Ophthalmology
Bell's palsy is a, usually, temporary weakness in the nerve (seventh cranial) that moves the muscles of the face. It is usually weakens only one side of the face and can affect the patient's ability to wrinkle their forehead, blink and close their eye, and talk, smile or move their lips, all on the weakened side. Because Bells' palsy is usually self limited (70% fully recover) most patient's need to protect their eyes carefully until the recovery is successful.
Protection of the eye can be a vary from simple forced blinking (if possible), frequent artificial tears or ointment, a therapeutic contact lens, patching or even temporary surgical closing of the eyelids. Your eye doctor can help make this decision depending on the amount of function of the eyelids during the palsy. This protection is extremely important because permanent scarring can develop if the eye is not moistened and protected by the normal blink mechanism. Because Bell's palsy can last for a long time, your eye doctor needs to monitor the examination of your eye frquently to be sure that the scarring does not develop. Patient's often miss the early signs of the scarring so don't rely on your own observations.

Your doctor can help you decide what eye treatments are best for you. If you are having trouble keeping your eyes wet (lubricated) because it is difficult to blink or close them, you may wish to do some of the following:

  • Use eye drops frequently (as often as your eye feels dry, or, at minimum, every hour).
  • Apply an eye ointment at night.
  • Use an eye patch during the day and/or at night to help the eye stay closed and keep moisture in. You can also occasionally hold your eye closed.
  • Wear eyeglasses as your doctor or ophthalmologist prescribes.

Keeping your eyes moist will help prevent serious scarring that could happen if your cornea becomes dry and gets scratched.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.