Symptoms of Bell's palsy include drooling, a decreased sense of taste, facial drooping and difficulty performing basic face movements, such as smiling or blinking, according to Mayo Clinic. In a matter of hours or days, some people may experience mild weakness to complete paralysis on one side of the face.
Some people with Bell's palsy may experience pain behind the ear or around the jaw on the side affected by Bell's palsy, notes Mayo Clinic. The affected side's ear may be more sensitive to noises than usual. Some people may produce less or more saliva and tears than usual. Bell's palsy may cause some people to have headaches. Bell's palsy can affect nerves on both sides of the face, but this does not usually occur. Symptoms usually come on rapidly.
Bell's palsy patients should visit a doctor immediately when the symptoms of the condition appear to receive early diagnosis and treatment, notes Mayo Clinic. Early treatment helps to prevent possible complications, such as permanent facial nerve damage, blindness and synkinesis, or involuntary contraction of certain muscles. To diagnose Bell's palsy, a doctor first conducts a physical exam before ordering further tests, such as electromyography and imaging scans, to determine the extent of the condition and its possible underlying cause. Depending on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition, treatment options may include physiotherapy to prevent contractures; medications, such as corticosteroids, to treat facial inflammation; and plastic surgery to repair facial nerves.
Because paralysis can be a sign of a stroke, it is important to seek immediate medical attention if it occurs, recommends Mayo Clinic. If facial weakness or drooping occurs, a doctor should be consulted to determine the severity of the condition as well as what is causing it. Although mild cases of Bell's palsy usually subside within a month, severe cases may cause lasting complications, including partial or complete blindness, involuntary muscle contractions and permanent facial nerve damage.
Bell's palsy is a condition in which the nerve controlling one side of the facial muscles undergoes damage, leading to weak facial muscles on the affected side, explains Mayo Clinic. As of 2015, the cause of Bell's palsy is not clear; however, experts think that viral conditions, such as chickenpox, German measles, mononucleosis, cytomegalovirus infections and flu, are possible causes of Bell's palsy. Other possible viral causes include mumps, shingles and cold sores.