Bell’s palsy is a sudden onset of facial paralysis that causes one side of the face to droop. If you have Bell’s palsy, you most likely went to bed and woke up the next morning to find you cannot move one side of your face. Bell’s palsy is the most common cause of facial paralysis occurring in around 40,000 people in the U.S. every year. The condition is named after the surgeon in Scotland that discovered it, Sir Charles Bell. The partial paralysis is caused by palsy (paralysis accompanied by involuntary tremors) of the facial nerve that affects all the muscles of facial expression. The facial nerve also innervates tear and saliva glands, the muscles of a small bone in the middle ear, and communicates messages of sensation from the tongue. The symptoms of Bell’s palsy gradually go away over a few weeks, but residual muscle weakness can last for several months.
The symptoms of Bell’s palsy can range from mild weakness to total paralysis. The symptoms arise suddenly and consist of:
- Sudden weakness of one side of the face
- Facial drooping
- Trouble smiling
- Trouble blinking or closing the eye on the affected side
- Weakness on the affected side
- Paralysis on the affected side
- Fewer tears and saliva, or more than normal
- Loss of taste
- Sensitivity to sound in the affected ear
- Jaw and ear pain
Symptoms are usually limited to one side, but in rare instances, it may affect both sides of the face. The good news is that for most people the paralysis is temporary and resolves within weeks or a few months.