Bell’s palsy effects two percent of the population each year. Chances are either you or someone you know will experience an episode of Bell’s palsy in your lifetime. When it happens the symptoms can be quite alarming.
The sudden on-set of paralysis on one or (on rare occasions) both sides of the face are often the most frightening symptom. Bell’s palsy is not a stroke. In fact it has nothing to do with blood-flow to the brain. Rather, Bell’s palsy results from damage or trauma to the seventh cranial nerve. The damage
interrupts the messages that the brain sends to the facial muscles. Bell’s palsy affects only the facial muscle. If paralysis or weakness occurs simultaneously in other parts of the body, something more serious is going on.
Other sometimes more subtle symptoms of Bell’s palsy are drooping of one side of the mouth or eye. The drooping can be mild or quite severe and is often accompanied by extreme dry eye and dry mouth.
Ringing in one or both ears, discomfort or pain behind the ears or in the jaw area are other symptoms of Bell’s palsy. Experienced alone, however, without either paralysis or a general weakness or droopiness one side of the face, pain in the jaw area and ringing ears are most likely symptoms of something else.
Caused entirely by the paralysis or weakening of one side the face, patients with Bell’s palsy can experience impaired speech, dizziness, and difficulty eating or drinking. Generally speaking bells palsy is not, in and of itself, life threatening. The suddenness of the onset can be frightening. In addition,
the facial distortion and the change in speech, eating, and drinking can prove to be socially embarrassing.
The good news is that Bell’s palsy is nearly always a temporary condition. The severity of symptoms usually occurs in the first 48 hours. Within a month to six weeks, most patients are fully recovered.
If you are someone you know is between the ages of 15 and 60 and experiences these symptoms, it is almost certainly Bell’s palsy. A visit to a physician is always advised to confirm the diagnosis and to treat any viral infections that may have triggered the episode of Bell’s palsy.