A sudden paralysis that often affects only one side of the face

Imagine waking up in the morning, looking in the mirror and realizing that one side of your face is sagging, your eyelid is drooping, and you are drooling out the side of your mouth. If you have ever had this experience, you were probably experiencing Bell’s palsy.

Bell’s palsy is the most common cause of facial paralysis. Although Bell’s palsy duration is usually limited to a few months, the symptoms can certainly be disturbing.

What Causes Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s palsy can occur at any age but is most common at around age 40. Men and women are affected equally. Every year about 15 to 30 people out of 100,000 get Bell’s palsy. The cause of Bell’s palsy is not completely understood but is believed to be caused by a viral infection that causes swelling of the facial nerve.

A Sneak Peek Inside the Human Body

The two facial nerves are large nerves that branch out across the face and carry electrical impulses to the facial muscles. Each nerve contains 7,000 nerve fibers. When the nerve swells in response to an infection, the electrical impulses get weak and the facial muscles lose their movement. Branches of the facial nerve are also important for tear and saliva production, and they transmit some taste sensations from the tongue.

Although the exact cause of Bell’s palsy is not always clear, certain risk factors are known to increase the chances of getting Bell’s palsy. Risk factors include:

  • Being exposed to herpes simplex virus type 1
  • Having diabetes
  • Being pregnant
  • Having had a previous episode of Bell’s palsy

Bell’s Palsy Symptoms

Bell’s palsy usually only affects one side of the face. Bell’s palsy symptoms usually start suddenly and reach their peak in 48 hours. Symptoms can range from partial to total paralysis. Common symptoms include:

  • Weakness of the facial muscles causing loss of facial expression
  • Twitching of the facial muscles
  • Drooping of the eyelid with inability to close the eye
  • Dryness of the eye and mouth
  • Loss of taste