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Condition Info > B > Bell's Palsy
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Bell's Palsy

(Facial Paralysis · 7th Nerve Palsy · Seventh Nerve Palsy)


In this condition factsheet:


Diagnosing Bell's Palsy

Bell's palsy is diagnosed based on its symptoms and physical signs. There are no specific tests to diagnose Bell's palsy, but your doctor will perform a thorough physical examination and may order certain tests (e.g., blood tests) to rule out other medical conditions that can cause facial paralysis. Additional tests such as CAT scans or MRI scans are usually not necessary, but may be used to rule out other medical causes of facial paralysis.

Treating and Preventing Bell's Palsy

Although Bell's palsy usually resolves on its own without treatment, doctors usually recommend treatment with corticosteroids (e.g., prednisone*) and sometimes antiviral medications (acyclovir or valacyclovir). Corticosteroids are used to help reduce swelling around the nerve and are usually taken for about 7 to 10 days. Some evidence shows that antiviral medications are helpful when they are given along with prednisone, but when they are used alone, they are not very effective. More studies are needed to clarify the role of antiviral medications for the treatment of Bell's palsy.

Everyone with Bell's palsy needs special protection for his or her open eye. It will usually remain open for at least a week, and may not be producing tears. Eye drops, eye patches, and special lotions at night are used. These almost always prevent long-term damage to the surface of the eye (cornea).

In the past, a surgical technique called decompression of the seventh nerve was sometimes used. It's less common now, as many experts believe inflammation and not compression of the nerve is the root of the problem.

Your doctor may also recommend physical therapy (e.g., exercises for face muscles), but more studies are needed to assess its benefit.

There is no known way of preventing Bell's palsy.

 


*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

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