Often, no treatment is needed. Symptoms often begin to improve right away. However, it may take weeks or even months for the muscles to get stronger, and this may be frustrating.
Your health care provider may give you lubricating eye drops or eye ointments to keep the surface of the eye moist if you cannot close it completely. You may need to wear an eye patch while you sleep.
Sometimes medicines may be used, but it is not clear how much they help. If medicines are used, they should be started right away.
Corticosteroids may reduce swelling around the facial nerve
Medications can fight the virus that may be causing Bell's palsy
Surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve (decompression surgery) has not been shown to benefit most people with Bell's palsy.
If you have problems closing your eye, you need to protect it from injury. Ask your doctor for tips.
Most cases go away completely within a few weeks to months.
If you did not lose all of your nerve function and symptoms began to improve within 3 weeks, you are more likely to regain all or most of the strength in your facial muscles.
Sometimes, the following symptoms may still be present:
Long-term changes in taste
Spasms of muscles or eyelids
Weakness that remains in facial muscles
The eye surface may become dry, leading to eye sores, infections, and vision loss.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider right away if your face droops or you have other symptoms of Bell's palsy. Your health care provider can rule out other, more serious conditions, such as stroke.
There is no known way to prevent Bell's palsy.
Baugh RF, Basura GJ, Ishii LE, et al., American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery. Clinical practice guideline: Bell's palsy. Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. 2013;149:S1-S27.
Gronseth GS, Paduga R. Evidence-based guideline update: Steroids and antivirals for Bell palsy. Neurology. 2012;79:1-5
McAllister K, Walker D, Donnan PT, Swan I. Surgical interventions for the early management of Bell's palsy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Feb 16;(2):CD007468.
Joseph V. Campellone, M.D., Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.