Bell’s Palsy: The Misunderstood Facial Condition

• Pain in or behind your ear
• Numbness in the affected side of your face
• Increased sensitivity to sound

What should I do if I think have Bell’s palsy?

Your doctor may diagnose the condition by giving you a physical and neurological exam to check facial nerve function. They may also ask you about when your symptoms first occurred.

You may also require blood tests, an MRI, or a CT scan.

How is Bell’s palsy treated?

Most people who have Bell’s palsy recover completely in 1 to 6 months. This is especially true for people who can still partly move their facial muscles. However, some people suffer from permanent muscle weakness or other problems.

While many people recover from this condition without medication, other require a corticosteroid, which can help lower the risk of long-term complications. In addition, an antiviral medication may be prescribed as well.

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What are some home treatment options?

In addition to seeing your doctor, there are certain steps you can take at home to help reduce your discomfort and speed your recovery.

Facial exercises. As the nerve in your face begins to function again, doing simple exercises-such as tightening and relaxing your facial muscles-may make those muscles stronger and help you recover more quickly. Massaging your forehead, cheeks, and lips with oil or cream may also help.

Eye care. If you can’t blink or close your eye fully, your eye may become dry. A dry eye can lead to sores and serious vision problems. To help protect the eye and keep it moist:

• Use your finger to close and open your eyelid often throughout the day.

• Use eyedrops (“artificial tears”) or ointment. Those that contain methylcelluloseare a good choice and don’t require a prescription. You may want to use drops during the day and ointment at night while you sleep. Ask your doctor how often to use the drops.

• Wear an eye patch while you sleep, and wear glasses or goggles the rest of the time.

Mouth care. If you have no feeling and little saliva on one side of your tongue, food may get stuck there, leading to gum disease or tooth decay. Brush and floss your teeth often and well to help prevent these problems. To prevent swallowing problems, eat slowly and chew your food well. Eating soft, smooth foods, such as yogurt, may also help.

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