Bell’s palsy is a condition in which one side of the face suffers nerve damage, causing severe weakening or paralysis of facial muscles. This immobilization causes a droop on the affected side of the face.
It is a condition that affects 30,000-40,000 people in the United States per year – often appearing overnight, and going away on its own within weeks.
The effects of Bell’s palsy on the eyes usually come in the form of dry eye, excessive tearing, and inability to close the eye.
What Causes Bell’s Palsy?
The cause of Bell’s palsy is unclear, although it has been linked to the presence of several other diseases, including Lyme disease, HIV, sarcoidosis, and ear infections.
Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy
Bell’s palsy is classically characterized by sudden stiffness of the face on one side. This may come on over the course of a few days, but most often, it appears very suddenly. In addition to tension and inability to control one side of the face, common symptoms of Bell’s palsy may include:
- Numbness on one side of the face
- Pain in the ear
- Difficulty eating and drinking
- Twitching of facial muscles
Treatment for Bell’s Palsy
Most often, Bell’s palsy improves without treatment within weeks, or sometimes months. However, if the affected side of the face prohibits the person from closing the eye, measures must be taken to make sure the eye remains moist, including:
- Eye drops: keep the surface of the eye moist and lubricated
- Eye patch: protects the eye at night; may be worn along with a special ointment to keep the affected eye moist and covered overnight
- Eyeglasses or goggles: protect the eyes from foreign objects