Also indexed as:Facial Nerve Palsy, Facial Paralysis
When one side of the face suddenly feels weak and numb, a nerve disorder may be the underlying reason. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
About This Condition
Bell’s palsy is a disorder of the nerve that controls certain muscles of the face.
People with Bell’s palsy lose control of some or all of the muscles on one half of the face; consequently, the face looks asymmetrical. Rarely are both sides of the face affected. The cause is unknown, and the disorder usually resolves without treatment within six to twelve months.
People with diabetes or hypertension have greater-than-average risk for Bell’s palsy.1, 2, 3 While no research has investigated whether better control of these conditions may help prevent Bell’s palsy, people with Bell’s palsy should be checked for diabetes and hypertension, especially if the palsy occurs repeatedly or affects both sides of the face.
Some common symptoms of Bell’s palsy include a rapid onset of weakness, numbness, heaviness, or paralysis of one side of the face. People with Bell’s palsy may also have symptoms of pain behind the ear, inability to completely close one eye, drooling, and speech difficulties.
Many reports claim that acupuncture speeds recovery from Bell’s palsy,4, 5, 6, 7 but no controlled trials have been done to confirm this is neither a placebo effect nor the natural course of healing.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBT) is a procedure in which the patient breaths 100% oxygen at pressures up to three times greater than normal atmospheric pressure. A well controlled study of Bell’s palsy patients compared HBT plus a placebo tablet with fake oxygen therapy plus steroid medication.8 HBT produced significantly faster recovery (22 vs. 34 days) compared to the use of steroids.
Biofeedback techniques (using simple electronic devices to measure and report information about a person’s biological system) have been reported to help limit the deterioration of muscle function and speed recovery in Bell’s palsy.9, 10 However, a controlled trial of patients with chronic facial paralysis (including some with Bell’s palsy) found that using a mirror as feedback was as effective as a mirror plus electrical biofeedback for improving facial symmetry and muscle function.11
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.