Bell’s palsy is a condition where one side of the face becomes weak or paralyzed for no apparent reason. For many patients, this will be very alarming, and they may even believe they are having a stroke, causing them to go to the emergency room. Bell’s palsy is not caused by a stroke, however, but from swelling of the facial nerve from a viral infection.
Treatment involves steroids taken by mouth for at least 14 days and sometimes antiviral medication as well. On rare occasions, if the weakness is particularly severe, surgery may be performed to decompress the nerve and allow it to swell. Primary care providers, nurse practitioners, and emergency room doctors are not trained to manage Bell’s palsy.
If you have Bell’s palsy, it is imperative that you be evaluated by an otologist or neurotologist, such as one of the specialists at the Shea Ear Clinic. Many cases of Bell’s palsy will resolve spontaneously, but early use of steroids is generally associated with a better outcome. It is crucially important to protect the eye in patients with Bell’s palsy, as they may not be able to blink their eye and adequately moisturize the cornea. Artificial tears, ointments, and taping the eyes shut at night are recommended.
If you or one of your loved ones has Bell’s palsy, you are encouraged to make an appointment at the Shea Ear Clinic at your earliest convenience. Thank you.