(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 a huge number of conditions, including head injury, that can cause facial paralysis, but few have the same pattern as Bell's palsy. Additional tests such as CAT scans or MRI scans are usually not necessary.
Treating and Preventing Bell's Palsy
Often no medication at all is prescribed, but 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. Eyedrops, eyepatches, and special lotions at night are used. These almost always prevent long-term damage to the surface of the eye (cornea).
Some specialists give the anti-viral medication acyclovir* if they suspect herpes simplex I. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are the commonly prescribed in order to reduce swelling around the nerve. These are usually taken for about 7 to 10 days. There is little evidence, however, to suggest they speed or improve recovery.
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.
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.