Bell’s palsy is a condition that causes a temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles in the face. It can occur when the nerve that controls your facial muscles becomes inflamed, swollen, or compressed.
The condition causes one side of your face to droop or become stiff. You may have difficulty smiling or closing your eye on the affected side. In most cases, Bell’s palsy is temporary and symptoms usually go away after a few weeks.
Although Bell’s palsy can occur at any age, the condition is more common among people between ages 16 and 60. Bell’s palsy is named after the Scottish anatomist Charles Bell, who was the first to describe the condition.
The symptoms of Bell’s palsy can develop one to two weeks after you have a cold, ear infection, or eye infection. They usually appear abruptly, and you may notice them when you wake up in the morning or when you try to eat or drink.
Bell’s palsy is marked by a droopy appearance on one side of the face and the inability to open or close your eye on the affected side. In rare cases, Bell’s palsy may affect both sides of your face.
Other signs and symptoms of Bell’s palsy include:
difficulty eating and drinking
an inability to make facial expressions, such as smiling or frowning
muscle twitches in the face
dry eye and mouth
sensitivity to sound
irritation of the eye on the involved side
Call your doctor immediately if you develop any of these symptoms. You should never self-diagnose Bell’s palsy. The symptoms can be similar to those of other serious conditions, such as a stroke or brain tumor.
Bell’s palsy occurs when the seventh cranial nerve becomes swollen or compressed, resulting in facial weakness or paralysis. The exact cause of this damage is unknown, but many medical researchers believe it’s most likely triggered by a viral infection.
The viruses/bacteria that have been linked to the development of Bell’s palsy include:
herpes simplex, which causes cold sores and genital herpes
HIV, which damages the immune system
sarcoidosis, which causes organ inflammation
herpes zoster virus, which causes chickenpox and shingles
Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis
Lyme disease, which is a bacterial infection caused by infected ticks