Question: My husband recently thought he was having a stroke but we were relieved to find out it was Bell’s palsy. What causes this condition?
Dr. Hibberd's answer:
Bell's palsy causes sudden weakness in the facial muscles, and can occur at any age. This makes half of your face appear to droop. Your smile is one-sided, and your eye on that side resists closing. The exact cause is unknown, but it's believed to be the result of swelling and inflammation of the nerve that controls the muscles on one side of your face. It may be a reaction that occurs after a viral infection.
In most people, Bell's palsy is temporary. Symptoms usually start to improve within a few weeks, with complete recovery in about six months. A small number of people continue to have some Bell's palsy symptoms for life. Rarely, Bell's palsy can recur.
Your doctor may suggest medications or physical therapy to help speed your recovery. Steroids or antiviral medications maybe advised. Paralyzed muscles can shrink and shorten, causing permanent contractures. A physical therapist can teach you how to massage and exercise your facial muscles to help prevent this from occurring.