Bell’s palsy


Bell’s palsy is a condition characterized by the abrupt weakening or paralysis of facial muscles on one side of the face. Facial weakness can occur when a certain condition, such as a viral infection, leads to inflammation and swelling of the seventh cranial nerve, which is responsible for controlling the facial muscles. Fortunately, in the majority of cases, this weakness is temporary and shows significant improvement over a period of several weeks. When facial weakness occurs, the affected side of the face may exhibit a droopy appearance. Smiles become one-sided, and there is difficulty in fully closing the eye on the affected side.

The name came from the Scottish physician named Sir Charles Bell, he originally characterized the illness in the 19th century. Acute peripheral facial palsy of unknown cause is another name for Bell’s palsy. Any age can experience it.

In most cases, the symptoms of Bell’s palsy begin to improve within a few weeks, with complete recovery typically taking around six months. While a small percentage of individuals may continue to experience some Bell’s palsy symptoms throughout their lives, recurrence of the condition is rare. The likelihood of a recurrence is highest within a two-year period following the initial incident. It is possible for the facial nerve palsy to affect either the same side of the face or the opposite side. Individuals with a family history of Bell’s palsy are at a higher risk of experiencing a recurrence.


Symptoms of Bell’s palsy often occur suddenly and reach their peak severity within 48 to 72 hours. While some individuals may experience mild symptoms, others may suffer from complete paralysis of the affected facial muscles.
Bell’s palsy signs and symptoms may include the following:

  • A sudden, hour-to-day development of mild weakness to full paralysis on one side of the face.
  • Drooping facial muscles and trouble producing facial gestures like smiling or closing the eyes
  • Drooling
  • Pain in the ear or around the jaw
  • Ringing in ears or tinnitus
  • High sensitivity to sound
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste
  • Changes in the saliva and tear production
  • Difficulty to speak, eat, or drink.

In rare cases, Bell’s palsy can affect the facial nerves on both sides. It is important for individuals experiencing any form of paralysis to seek immediate medical assistance, as it could potentially indicate a stroke. Although Bell’s palsy is not caused by a stroke, its symptoms may resemble those of a stroke.

If an individual experiences facial weakness or drooping, it is advisable to consult a healthcare provider to assess the underlying cause and evaluate the severity of the condition. Seeking medical advice can help in obtaining a proper diagnosis and determining the appropriate course of action.


Bell’s palsy frequently has a connection to having a viral infection, even though its exact cause is unknown. A number of viruses can cause Bell’s palsy. The condition develops when swelling or inflammation suddenly presses against the nerve that regulates the muscles of the face.

As it travels towards the face, the nerve responsible for controlling facial muscles passes through a narrow bony corridor. Bell’s palsy is characterized by the swelling and inflammation of that nerve, which is typically brought on by a viral infection. Not only the facial muscles, the nerve also influences a tiny bone in the middle of the ear, tears, saliva, and taste.

Some viruses that have been connected to Bell’s palsy include those that:

  • Herpes simplex (cold sores and genital herpes)
  • Herpes zoser (chickenpox and shingles)
  • Rubella (German measles)
  • Mumps (mumps virus)
  • Influenza B virus (Flu)
  • Epstein-Barr virus (Infectious mononucleosis)
  • Cytomegalovirus infections
  • Coxsackievirus (hand-foot-and-mouth disease)
  • Adenovirus (respiratory illnesses)

Risk factors

Bell’s palsy is more common in those who:

  • Age: It is most common to people between the age of 15 and 60 years old.
  • Family history: Rarely do Bell’s palsy attacks recur. But when they do, recurring episodes are frequently a family history. This shows that Bell’s palsy may have a genetic component.
  • Gender: It typically affects male and female equally. It also increases the risk for pregnant mothers, especially in the third trimester, or within one week of giving birth.
  • Other diseases: Patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and upper respiratory infections like the flu or the common cold are more likely to develop Bell’s palsy.