Bell’s Palsy: What Is It?

    A woman touching her faceWhat is Bell’s palsy? Bell’s palsy is a paralysis or weakness of the muscles on one side of your face. Damage to the facial nerve that controls muscles on one side of the face causes that side of your face to droop. Bell’s palsy can occur suddenly, often overnight.

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    Who is most likely to be affected by Bell’s palsy?

    Bell’s palsy affects about 40,000 people in the United States every year – about 1 in every 65 people. Bell’s palsy is three times more likely to strike pregnant women than non-pregnant women. It is also considered to be four times more likely to occur in diabetics.

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    What causes Bell’s palsy?

    The cause of Bell’s palsy is not clear. Most cases are thought to be caused by the herpes simplex I virus, the same virus that causes cold sores.

    In most cases of Bell’s palsy, the nerve that controls muscles on one side of the face is damaged by inflammation.

    Many health problems can cause weakness or paralysis of the face. If a specific reason cannot be found for the weakness, the condition is called Bell’s palsy.

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    Is Bell’s palsy the result of a stroke?

    Bell’s palsy is not the result of a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA).

    While stroke and TIA can cause facial paralysis, there is no link between Bell’s palsy and either of these conditions. But any sudden weakness on one side of your face should be checked by a doctor right away, so they can rule out these more serious causes.

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    What are the symptoms of Bell’s palsy?

    Symptoms can include:

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