Definition

What is facial paralysis?

Facial paralysis is a loss of facial movement due to nerve damage. Your facial muscles may appear to droop or become weak. It can happen on one or both sides of the face.

How common is facial paralysis?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of facial paralysis?

Symptoms depend on the cause.

Bell’s palsy

While facial paralysis is often alarming, it does not always mean that you are having a stroke. The most common diagnosis is in fact Bell’s palsy. Symptoms of Bell’s palsy can include a combination of:

  • Facial paralysis on one side (rarely are both sides of the face affected)
  • Loss of blinking control on the affected side
  • Decreased tearing
  • Drooping of the mouth to the affected side
  • Altered sense of taste
  • Slurred speech
  • Drooling
  • Pain in or behind the ear
  • Sound hypersensitivity on the affected side
  • Difficulty eating or drinking

Stroke

People experiencing a stroke often experience the same symptoms associated with Bell’s palsy. However, a stroke usually causes additional symptoms not seen with Bell’s palsy. The following symptoms in addition to the symptoms of Bell’s palsy could indicate a stroke:

  • Changes in level of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Seizure
  • Changes in vision
  • Weakness in arms or legs on one side of your body

Often times people experiencing a stroke will still have the ability to blink and move their foreheads on the affected side. This is not the case with Bell’s palsy.

Since it is sometimes hard to distinguish between a stroke and other causes of facial paralysis, it is a good idea to get your loved one to a doctor quickly if you notice facial paralysis.

If you believe that you or a loved one may be experiencing a stroke, call 911 as soon as possible.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes facial paralysis?

Facial paralysis is almost always caused by:

  • Damage or swelling of the facial nerve, which carries signals from the brain to the muscles of the face
  • Damage to the area of the brain that sends signals to the muscles of the face

In people who are otherwise healthy, facial paralysis is often due to Bell palsy. This is a condition in which the facial nerve becomes inflamed.

Stroke may cause facial paralysis. With a stroke, other muscles on one side of the body may also be involved.

Facial paralysis that is due to a brain tumor usually develops slowly. Symptoms can include headaches, seizures, or hearing loss.

In newborns, facial paralysis may be caused by trauma during birth.

Other causes include:

  • Infection of the brain or surrounding tissues
  • Lyme disease
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Tumor that presses on the facial nerve

Risk factors

What increases my risk for facial paralysis?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is facial paralysis diagnosed?

Be sure to discuss all your symptoms with your doctor, and share information about any other conditions or illnesses you may have.

Your doctor may also ask you to try to move your facial muscles by lifting your eyebrow, closing your eye, smiling, and frowning. Tests such as electromyography (which checks the health of muscles and the nerves that control them), imaging scans, and blood tests can help your doctor learn why your face is paralyzed.

How is facial paralysis treated?

Treatment depends on the cause.

Bell’s palsy

The vast majority of people with Bell’s palsy will fully recover on their own, with or without treatment. However, studies have shown that taking oral steroids (such as prednisone) and antiviral medications immediately can help boost your chances of complete recovery. Physical therapy can also help strengthen your muscles and prevent permanent damage.

For those who don’t recover fully, cosmetic surgery can help correct eyelids that won’t fully close or a crooked smile.

The greatest danger of facial paralysis is possible eye damage. Bell’s palsy often keeps one or both eyelids from closing fully. When the eye can’t blink normally, the cornea may dry out, and particles may enter and damage the eye.

People with facial paralysis should use artificial tears throughout the day and apply an eye lubricant at night. They may also need to wear a special clear plastic moisture chamber to keep the eye moist and protected.

Stroke

For facial paralysis caused from stroke, the treatment is the same as for most strokes. If the stroke was very recent, you may be a candidate for a special stroke therapy that can destroy the clot causing the stroke. If the stroke happened too long ago for this treatment, the doctor may treat you with medications to reduce risk of further brain damage. Strokes are very time sensitive, so if you are concerned at all that you or a loved one may be having a stroke, you should get them to an emergency room as soon as possible!

Other facial paralysis

Facial paralysis due to other causes may benefit from surgery to repair or replace damaged nerves or muscles, or to remove tumors. Small weights may also be surgically placed inside the upper eyelid to help it close.

Some people may experience uncontrolled muscle movements in addition to paralysis. Botox injections that freeze the muscles, as well as physical therapy, can help.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage facial paralysis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with facial paralysis:

Unfortunately, even with all current options for therapy, some cases of facial paralysis may never completely go away. For these people, physical therapy and eye care can help prevent any further damage and improve quality of life.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: August 24, 2018 | Last Modified: August 24, 2018

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