Bell’s Palsy: Bell’s Palsy’s Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Bell’s palsy is a condition characterized by the sudden onset of paralysis on one side of the face, often resulting in a drooping appearance. This article delves into the intricacies of Bell’s palsy, shedding light on its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

What is Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s palsy may be defined as an acute, unilateral, idiopathic, facial nerve paralysis. It occurs when facial nerve is inflamed, swollen or compressed in the facial bony canal, resulting in paralysis of facial muscles on one side of the face (ipsilateral side). Facial nerve is seventh cranial nerve which originates in the pons, a part of brain stem. It controls the movements of the muscles of facial expression, including smiling, frowning, closing the eyes, raising the eyebrows, and forming facial expressions. It also provides sensory innervation to a small area of the external ear and transmits taste information from the anterior two-thirds of the tongue via the chorda tympani branch.

Bell's Palsy's Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Risk Factors

Bell’s palsy commonly affects individuals between the ages of 20 and 40, with heightened incidence observed in pregnant women and diabetics. Pregnancy-related fluid retention and diabetic angiopathy contribute to the increased vulnerability of these populations to Bell’s palsy.

Exploring the Causes

The exact cause of Bell’s palsy remains elusive, but several factors have been implicated:

  • Viral Infections: Herpes simplex virus, herpes zoster virus, and Epstein Barr virus are among the primary viral suspects.
  • Vascular Ischemia: Cold weather or emotional stress may induce primary ischemia, leading to microcirculatory compromise and nerve compression.
  • Autoimmune Factors: Changes in T lymphocytes have been noted in some cases.
  • Hereditary Influences: Approximately 6 to 8 percent of patients have a positive family history, suggesting a genetic predisposition.

Identifying Clinical Features

Bell’s palsy presents with distinctive clinical features:

  • Lower Motor Neuron Palsy: Forehead involvement with loss of wrinkles is characteristic.
  • Upper Motor Neuron Lesion: Preservation of forehead wrinkling distinguishes this type.
  • Onset and Symptoms: Sudden onset, accompanied by pain behind the ear, facial asymmetry, and inability to close the eye, are common manifestations.

Diagnostic Approaches

Diagnosing Bell’s palsy primarily relies on clinical evaluation, history-taking, and otological examination. While no specific test exists, ancillary investigations such as blood tests and imaging may aid in ruling out alternative diagnoses.

Medical Management

The management of Bell’s palsy involves a multidisciplinary approach:

  • Treatment Options: Prednisolone administration within 72 hours of onset is recommended universally.
  • Role of Prednisolone: Prednisolone aids in reducing inflammation and hastening recovery.
  • Debate on Antivirals: The addition of antiviral medications remains controversial, with varying recommendations from different clinical guidelines.
  • Surgical Interventions: Nerve decompression surgery may be considered in refractory cases to alleviate nerve compression.

General Care and Counseling

Supportive care plays a crucial role in Bell’s palsy management:

  • Eye Care: Preventing exposure keratopathy is paramount.
  • Pain Management: Analgesics may alleviate associated discomfort.
  • Psychological Support: Physiotherapy and counseling provide emotional support during the recovery process.

Follow-Up and Prognosis

Monitoring and prognostication are essential components of Bell’s palsy management:

  • Timeline for Improvement: Most patients experience complete recovery within 3-4 months.
  • Referral Guidelines: Referral to specialist services is warranted if paralysis persists beyond 3 weeks.
  • Long-Term Outlook: While the prognosis is generally favorable, some patients may experience residual weakness or recurrent episodes.


Bell’s palsy poses significant challenges due to its sudden onset and potential long-term implications. However, with timely intervention and comprehensive management strategies, the majority of patients achieve satisfactory recovery outcomes.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. Is it possible for Bell’s palsy to impact both sides of the face?
    • Bell’s palsy typically affects only one side of the face, but bilateral involvement is rare.
  2. Is Bell’s palsy a sign of stroke?
  3. Are there any lifestyle modifications to prevent Bell’s palsy?
    • While the exact prevention methods are unknown, maintaining overall health and managing underlying conditions may reduce the risk.
  4. Can Bell’s palsy recur?
    • Yes, although rare, Bell’s palsy can recur in some individuals.
  5. What should I do if I suspect Bell’s palsy?
    • If you experience sudden facial paralysis or related symptoms, seek medical attention promptly for evaluation and management.

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