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What is Bell's palsy?

Bell's palsy is a form of temporary facial paralysis resulting from damage or trauma to one of the pair of facial nerves. The facial nerve,-also called the seventh cranial nerve,-is a paired structure that travels through a narrow, bony canal, called the fallopian canal, in the skull, beneath the ear, to the muscles on each side of the face. For most of its journey, the nerve is encased in this bony shell.

Each facial nerve directs the muscles on one side of the face, including those that control eye blinking and closing, and facial expressions such as smiling and frowning. Additionally, the facial nerve carries nerve impulses to the lacrimal or tear glands, the saliva glands, and the muscles of a small bone in the middle of the ear called the stapes. The facial nerve also transmits taste sensations from the tongue.

When Bell's palsy occurs, the function of the facial nerve is disrupted, causing an interruption in the messages sent by the brain to the facial muscles. This interruption results in facial weakness or paralysis.

Bell's palsy is named after Sir Charles Bell, a 19th century Scottish surgeon who was the first to describe the condition. The disorder, which is not related to stroke, is the most common cause of facial paralysis. Generally, Bell's palsy affects only one of the paired facial nerves and one side of the face; however, in rare cases, it can affect both sides.

This answer is based on source information from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Bell’s palsy is a nerve disorder that causes partial or slight paralysis on one side of the face.

This mild facial paralysis may affect a person’s smile, making it seem uneven, or may prevent one eyelid from closing properly.

Bell’s palsy usually occurs in adults. It develops suddenly and involves a problem with a nerve (known as the facial or 7th cranial nerve) that affects the muscles of the face.

Bell’s palsy is a nerve disorder that causes partial or slight paralysis on one side of the face. This mild facial paralysis may affect a person’s smile, making it seem uneven, or may prevent one eyelid from closing properly. Bell’s palsy usually occurs in adults. It develops suddenly and involves a problem with a nerve (known as the facial or seventh cranial nerve) that affects the muscles of the face.

Symptoms of Bell’s palsy include facial numbness; you may notice that you cannot smile on one side of your face. Some people temporarily cannot close one eyelid completely, which may lead to eye irritation or the feeling of something stuck in the eye. Other symptoms include decreased tear production, blurriness in vision, diminished taste sensation, and distortions or discomfort in your hearing.

In over 80% of cases, Bell’s palsy disappears on its own. This recovery process typically begins within three weeks of the disease’s onset and is complete after two to three months. In less than 20% of cases, symptoms of Bell’s palsy do not get better. Your ophthalmologist may have use you use eye lubricants or drops to prevent complications. Be sure to carefully follow your doctor's instructions because if your eyelid cannot close properly, your eye becomes vulnerable to irritation, dryness, and other problems. In some cases, your ophthalmologist may prescribe drugs called corticosteroids to assist the healing process.

Mosaraf Ali, MD
Integrative Medicine
Bell's palsy is a common neurological disease which can have a devastating effect on the patient. He or she is extremely nervous and fearful at its onset because it feels like a "stroke" in the face. Half of the face gets paralyzed and one is unable to shut the eye; the tongue is forked to one side, the facial expression disappears, the angle of the mouth droops and the ability to move the mimicry muscles or smile is not there. All that happens suddenly without any warning whatsoever.

The eyelids act like wipers on the windscreen of a car, swiping dust particles so that the vision is clear and there is no irritation of the conjunctiva. In this case, the affected eye is wide open and one has to use eye drops to keep the eye surface clear and moist.

Medical science attributes this sudden attack to viral infection, although no virus has actually been identified. Recent studies have identified the herpes virus in some cases where eruptions have been found in the palate or in the ear. It's obvious that in these cases it is herpes that cause the paralysis.

Having treated scores of patients with this condition, I am convinced that most of them are caused by decreased blood flow to either the roots or the actual Facial Nerve (seventh cranial nerve), which originates at the brain stem and emerges from the front of the ear.

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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.