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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Bell's palsy


Other Names for this Disease

  • Antoni's palsy
  • Bell palsy
  • Facial cranial nerve paralysis
  • Facial nerve palsy
  • Facial palsy
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

I was diagnosed with Bell's palsy about 2 years ago. Although I was told that the symptoms would resolve within a few months, I continue to have recurrent ear infections and issues with my right eye. What treatments are available for this condition?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is Bell's palsy?

Bell's palsy is a nonprogressive neurological disorder of one of the facial nerves. This disorder is characterized by the sudden onset of facial paralysis that may be preceded by a slight fever, pain behind the ear on the affected side, a stiff neck, and weakness and/or stiffness on one side of the face. Paralysis results from decreased blood supply (ischemia) and/or compression of the 7th cranial nerve. The exact cause of Bell's palsy is not known. Viral (e.g., herpes zoster virus) and immune disorders are frequently implicated as a cause for this disorder. There may also be an inherited tendency toward developing Bell's palsy.[1] While there is no cure or standard course of treatment for Bell's palsy, eliminating the source of the nerve damage typically results in a good prognosis.[2]
Last updated: 1/12/2010

What is the standard treatment for Bell's palsy?

There is no cure or standard course of treatment for Bell's palsy. The most important factor in treatment is to eliminate the source of the nerve damage. Some cases are mild and do not require treatment since the symptoms usually subside on their own within 2 weeks. For others, treatment may include medications such as acyclovir -- used to fight viral infections -- combined with an anti-inflammatory drug such as the steroid prednisone -- used to reduce inflammation and swelling.  Analgesics such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen may relieve pain, but because of possible drug interactions, patients should always talk to their doctors before taking any over-the-counter medicines.  In general, decompression surgery for Bell's palsy -- to relieve pressure on the nerve -- is controversial and is seldom recommended.[2]

Last updated: 1/12/2010

Are there additional or alternative treatments for individuals who have resistant or residual symptoms of Bell's palsy?

Individuals with longstanding cases of Bell's palsy may be dealing with residual symptoms like synkinesis, cross-wiring, hypertonic muscles and spasms. For these individuals, regaining the capability of performing correct facial movements is the goal. This may be accomplished through focused practice with guidance from a specially-trained physical therapist. This practice, called facial retraining, can be customized to each individual patient's needs.[3][4] 

Other therapies that may be useful for some individuals include relaxation techniques, acupuncture, electrical stimulation, biofeedback training, and vitamin therapy (including vitamin B12, B6, and zinc), which may help nerve growth.[5] Other therapies include Botox for synkinesis, hypertonicity and muscle spasms, reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, and nerve and muscle grafts and transpositions.[6][7]

Additional information about the treatment of Bell's palsy can be found at the following link from the Bell's Palsy Information Site: http://www.bellspalsy.ws/treatment.htm

This site also provides a resource which lists treatment centers which offer acute care and/or treatment of longstanding cases of Bell's palsy. Visit the following link to access this list of facilities.
http://www.bellspalsy.ws/centers.htm
Last updated: 1/12/2010

What is the prognosis for individuals with Bell's palsy?

The prognosis for individuals with Bell's palsy is generally very good. The extent of nerve damage determines the extent of recovery.  With or without treatment, most individuals begin to get better within 2 weeks after the initial onset of symptoms and recover completely within 3 to 6 months. For some, however, the symptoms may last longer. In a few cases, the symptoms may never completely disappear. In rare cases, the disorder may recur, either on the same or the opposite side of the face.[5]

Last updated: 1/12/2010

References
Other Names for this Disease
  • Antoni's palsy
  • Bell palsy
  • Facial cranial nerve paralysis
  • Facial nerve palsy
  • Facial palsy
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.