What is bell's palsy?

Bell's palsy in children: Overview

Bell's palsy is paralysis or weakness of the muscles on one side of the face. Often children with Bell's palsy have a droop on one side of the mouth and have trouble completely shutting the eye on the same side. Bell's palsy can also interfere with the sense of taste. These things happen when a nerve in the face becomes inflamed. Bell's palsy is not caused by a stroke. The cause of the nerve inflammation is not known. Your child also may get medicine.

Bell's palsy

Bell's palsy is a paralysis or weakness of the muscles on one side of the face. It causes one side of the face to droop and affects not only taste but also saliva and tear production.

In most cases of Bell's palsy, the nerve that controls muscles on either side of the face is damaged by inflammation. The cause of this inflammation is not clear, but it may be linked to a viral infection.

What are the symptoms of Bell's palsy?

Symptoms of Bell's palsy include:

  • Sudden weakness or paralysis on one side of your face that causes it to droop. This is the main symptom. It may make it hard for you to close your eye on that side of your face.
  • Drooling.
  • Eye problems, such as excessive tearing or a dry eye.
  • Loss of ability to taste.
  • Pain in or behind your ear.
  • Numbness in the affected side of your face.
  • Increased sensitivity to sound.

How is Bell's palsy treated?

Most people who have Bell's palsy recover completely, without treatment, in 1 to 2 months. This is especially true for people who can still partly move their facial muscles. But a small number of people may have permanent muscle weakness or other problems on the affected side of the face.

Treatment with corticosteroid medicines (such as prednisone) can make it more likely that you will regain all facial movement. They work best if they are taken soon after symptoms start (within 3 days). Sometimes antiviral medicines (such as acyclovir) may be added to corticosteroid medicines to treat Bell's palsy. But evidence for using antiviral medicines is weak. They may help in some cases, but in general they do not affect recovery.

Some people may not be able to take corticosteroid medicines because of other health problems. It's important to remember that most people with Bell's palsy recover completely without any treatment.

How is Bell's palsy diagnosed?

Your doctor may diagnose Bell's palsy by asking you questions, such as about how your symptoms developed. He or she will also give you a physical and neurological exam to check facial nerve function.

If the cause of your symptoms is not clear, you may need other tests, such as blood tests, an MRI, or a CT scan.

How can you care for yourself when you have Bell's palsy?

Facial exercises

As the nerve in your face begins to work again, doing simple exercises-such as tightening and relaxing your facial muscles-may make those muscles stronger and help you recover more quickly. Massaging your forehead, cheeks, and lips with oil or cream may also help.

Eye care

If you can't blink or close your eye fully, your eye may become dry. A dry eye can lead to sores and serious vision problems. To help protect the eye and keep it moist:

  • Use your finger to close and open your eyelid often throughout the day.
  • Use eyedrops ("artificial tears") or ointment. Those that contain methylcellulose are a good choice and don't require a prescription. You may want to use drops during the day and ointment at night while you sleep. Ask your doctor how often to use the drops.
  • Wear an eye patch while you sleep, and wear glasses or goggles the rest of the time.
Mouth care

If you have no feeling and little saliva on one side of your tongue, food may get stuck there, leading to gum disease or tooth decay. Brush and floss your teeth often and well to help prevent these problems. To prevent swallowing problems, eat slowly and chew your food well. Eating soft, smooth foods, such as yogurt, may also help.

Bell's Palsy

Facial muscles affected by Bell's palsy

Bell's palsy causes paralysis or weakness of the muscles on one side of the face. It results from facial nerve paralysis that causes the affected side of the face to appear flat, expressionless, or droopy. Taste sensation and tear or saliva production can also be affected.

What is Bell's palsy?

Bell's palsy is a paralysis or weakness of the muscles on one side of your face. Damage to the facial nerve that controls muscles on one side of the face causes that side of your face to droop. The nerve damage may also affect your sense of taste and how you make tears and saliva. This condition comes on suddenly, often overnight, and usually gets better on its own within a few weeks.

Bell's palsy is not the result of a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA). While stroke and TIA can cause facial paralysis, there is no link between Bell's palsy and either of these conditions. But sudden weakness that occurs on one side of your face should be checked by a doctor right away to rule out these more serious causes.

What causes Bell's palsy?

The cause of Bell's palsy is not clear. Most cases are thought to be caused by the herpes virus that causes cold sores.

In most cases of Bell's palsy, the nerve that controls muscles on one side of the face is damaged by inflammation.

Many health problems can cause weakness or paralysis of the face. If a specific reason cannot be found for the weakness, the condition is called Bell's palsy.

Bell's palsy in children: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has weakness that spreads beyond one side of the face.
  • Your child has new weakness of the muscles of the face.
  • Your child has a skin rash or eye pain or redness, or light bothers their eyes.
  • Your child has a new or worse headache.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.