What is Bell’s Palsy?

By: Edward Attaway, O.D.

Bell’s Palsy is a condition in which one side of the face typically experiences temporary paralysis, often lasting from 3-6 months. It results from a dysfunction of the 7th cranial nerve, also referred to as the facial nerve, which controls the muscles on the side of your face. Affected muscles include those which control blinking and facial expressions such as smiling.

As with most diseases, the symptoms can vary in severity. However, the most common symptom of Bell’s Palsy is sudden weakness on one side of the face. Other symptoms include drooping of the mouth or inability to close the eye on the affected side; facial pain, altered taste, and intolerance to loud noise can also be experienced.

The cause of Bell’s Palsy is unknown but is felt to be related to a problem with the immune system, reduced blood flow to the facial nerve, or a viral infection that can cause swelling and inflammation in the facial nerve.

Bell’s Palsy is usually diagnosed based on clinical presentation. No specific tests are used to diagnose, but blood work and imaging are often done to rule out accompanying diseases. 

Since it is usually temporary, no systemic treatments are generally considered, but corticosteroids or antivirals are sometimes used.

Ocular treatment includes drops, gels, or ointments to protect the eye in cases where it is left exposed from the lack of full lid closure. Other treatments involve taping or patching the eye, and surgical options can be considered in severe forms.

Although Bell’s Palsy can be a frightening paralysis of the face, it is temporary in the vast majority of cases. The only necessary treatments are keeping the eyes comfortable and well-lubricated.

If you are due for an eye exam or would like to discuss Bell’s Palsy further with one of our doctors, please call us at 800-282-3937 to schedule an appointment or visit our website, EYESFL.COM. 

This column is sponsored by Eye Specialists of Mid-Florida, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFHN or of its advertisers.  

Dr. Edward Attaway is an optometrist who practices at the Winter Haven location for Eye Specialists of Mid-Florida. He is currently accepting new patients.

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