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, it is believed to be caused by viral infection but has also been linked to Lyme disease, diabetes, sarcoidosis, flu-like illnesses, infections and trauma to the face or skull.
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
- Twitching of facial muscles
- Dryness of mouth and eye
- Excessive tearing in one eye
- Difficulty eating and drinking
- Pain around jaw
- Pain behind ear
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, medication (steriods) may be used to reduce inflammation and swelling which may help the patient close the eye. Your eye care professional may also recommend artificial tears, ointments and gels to keep the affected eye moist, or an eye patch (with lubricating eye drops or an ointment) to keep the affected eye moist and covered overnight.
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