Affecting about 40,000 people in the United States every year, Bell’s Palsy is a neurological disorder that manifests as a paralysis of the face. This disorder often affects only one side of the face. Bell’s Palsy is thought to be a result of damage to the facial nerve that controls the muscles on one side of the face, which then causes those muscles to droop. The facial nerve damage that affects the facial muscles can also impact a person’s taste, saliva, or ability to cry. Bell’s Palsy is most common in young adults, the elderly, diabetics, and pregnant women, but it can affect anyone.
This condition is often a shock, as it comes on overnight. The majority of patients wake with the facial muscles in paralysis. Most patients either have no symptoms beforehand, or they miss the warning signs, which are subtle and can include neck pain, pain behind the ear, or pain in the back of the head. People with Bell’s Palsy can experience difficulty with multiple facial functions including closing their eyes, eating, smiling, and their speech can also become slurred. Often, people jump to the conclusion that a stroke has occurred, but thankfully, Bell’s Palsy is not the result of a stroke, and is also a temporary affliction. While the condition comes on suddenly, it usually passes or gets better on its own within three weeks.