What is Bell's Palsy?

Toggle accordion item

Bell's palsy is a weakness (partial or total) of the facial nerve. The facial nerve is the nerve that controls expression on each side of the face, tearing, taste, and even hearing to some extent.

In Bell's palsy, facial weakness develops suddenly or over a period of 48 hours. Often it is first noticed by a patient's family member as a crooked smile or slurred speech. Patients have repeatedly reported that it was noticed on first getting up in the morning. Other common symptoms include a sensation of facial numbness or tingling, a sensation of pulling of the face or mouth to one side, sensitivity to loud sounds, excessive tearing or dry eye, difficulty eating, headache, pain behind the ear, a change in taste.

About 1 in 5000 people in the United States experience Bell's palsy each year. The problem can occur at any age. Bell's palsy occurs more often in pregnant women, people with diabetes, influenza, a cold or another respiratory illness than in other people.