Bell’s Palsy is the weakness or paralysis of the facial nerve that is not due to injury to the facial nerve from trauma. Referred to as idiopathic facial nerve paralysis as well, this loss of facial movement can be very upsetting to the patient, the family, and health care providers. Thought to be due to a viral infection of the facial nerve, the patient experiences the development of weakness of eye closure, brow movement, and lips. The weakness can be a complete loss of movement of the face on one side, and sometimes be associated with some facial pain, and hearing changes.
The diagnosis and treatment requires a skilled and experienced team. Often patients with relatively mild to moderate weakness will recover to normal, or almost normal, some patient with very severe or complete weakness may benefit from surgery to decompress or take pressure off the nerve to help recovery; often steroids in conjunction with oral antiviral medications are used to medically treat this early in the course of the facial weakness. The earlier the patient can be diagnosed, and medical therapy started, the better the recovery can be. The diagnosis and management may require MRI imaging, hearing & balance testing, nerve testing, and eye exam. For those Shea Ear Clinic patients with Bell’s palsy, the team of experts caring for the patient may include neurosurgeons, plastic surgeons, ophthalmologists, as well as others.