Bell's palsy is a common condition that affects about 40,000 people in the United States every year. It can often be confused with a stroke because it causes one side of your face to become weak and droops. It is caused by a damaged facial nerve that controls the muscles in the face. The nerve can become infected with a virus which can cause it to become swollen resulting in a droopy looking face. The majority of people that have Bell's palsy recover completely, however there are unusual circumstances when it can be a lifelong battle with the complications from the facial droop.
There is no specific test for Bell's palsy. It is important to be seen by your doctor who will be able to differentiate this condition from other serious conditions like a stroke. Symptoms you may notice include a sagging eyebrow or eye droop on one side. Your eye may not close completely that will cause it to water more and then become dry. One corner of your mouth may droop as well which can increase drooling. Hearing and taste may be affected as well.
It is important to see a provider right away so treatment can be started as soon as possible. The sooner treatment is started the better it works. There is no cure for Bell's palsy, but there are treatments to help with the symptoms. Many people get steroids and antiviral medications. If your eye is affected it may get dry and drops can be prescribed as well. The eye may need to be patched at night to protect it.
Most people will recover completely in about three weeks. Although in some cases it may take 6 months to recover and others never completely recover. This is why prompt treatment is necessary. Reoccurrence is possible, but occurs rarely.
If you think you might have this condition, don't hesitate. Go see your provider.