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What're the signs and symptoms of Bell's palsy?

The major symptom of Bell's palsy is one-sided facial weakness or paralysis. Muscle control is either inadequate or completely missing. There may also be involuntary facial movements, such as twitches, that accompany certain facial expressions. Afflicted individuals frequently have difficulty shutting the affected eye and may not be able to close it at all. In most cases, symptoms of Bell's palsy begin gradually and peak in 48 hours. Early symptoms include changed sensation

in a portion of the face, pain in or around the ear, increased or decreased hearing and impaired taste. As the condition progresses, a person typically has trouble closing his or her mouth and eye on one side of the face, and may complain of being unable to hold food in the mouth. The eyes also may tear more or less than usual. Pain often diminishes, but it can intensify.

The symptoms on the affected side typically include inability to close the eye, to smile, wrinkle the forehead and whistle. Speech may be mildly slurred. Tearing occurs because the eye does not close completely. Taste sensation may be diminished on the front half of the tongue. Sounds may appear louder on the affected side (hyperacusis) -- this may be caused by paralysis of the stapedius muscle but also occurs independantly. Papillitis may be seen of the fungiform papillae of the affected side. Bell's palsy usually develops over hours to days. The peak involvement usually happens within several days. Mild pain behind the ear is common at onset, as is a subjective sensation of "numbness" of the affected side. Usually it is first noticed when a persons observes it in a mirror, or on eating because food tends to collect between the cheek and gums.

More information on Bell's palsy

What is Bell's palsy? - Bell's palsy is unilateral facial paralysis of sudden onset due to a lesion of the facial nerve. Bell's palsy is a weakness (paralysis) that affects the muscles of the face.
What is the facial nerve? - The facial nerve carries impulses from the brain to the facial muscles, allowing facial expression and movement.
What causes Bell's palsy? - The exact cause of Bell's palsy is not known. Inflammation develops around the facial nerve as it passes through the skull from the brain.
What're the symptoms of Bell's palsy? - The major symptom of Bell's palsy is one-sided facial weakness or paralysis. Muscle control is either inadequate or completely missing.
How is Bell's palsy diagnosed? - The fact that Bell's palsy is a diagnosis of exclusion becomes apparent in the course of the medical examination.
What's the treatment for Bell's palsy? - Doctors prescribe an antiviral and/or a steroid for Bell's palsy. Prednisone treatment speed recovery and reduce the frequency of a bad result.
What is the prognosis of Bell's palsy? - Most individuals with Bell's palsy begin to notice improvement in their condition within 2-3 weeks of the symptoms' onset.
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