Bell palsy is sudden weakness on one side of your face. It happens when a nerve in your face (called the facial nerve) swells and gets squeezed.
Symptoms start suddenly, usually within hours. Within 48 to 72 hours, your symptoms are as bad as they’ll get.
Bell palsy weakens the muscles on one side of your face. Sometimes you have a little pain behind your ear before the weakness starts. The weakness may range from mild weakness to a total inability to move, called paralysis. On your weak side, you may have:
Your facial nerve may not always heal the right way. This can cause unusual face movements or watery eyes. Sometimes, your facial muscles may stay tight.
If you start noticing signs of Bell palsy, see a doctor as soon as possible. Some other conditions, such as a stroke or Lyme disease, are more serious than Bell palsy and can cause similar symptoms.
The doctor will examine you to diagnose Bell palsy. There's no specific test for Bell palsy. To confirm your symptoms aren't caused by something else, your doctor may do tests:
Most people who have Bell palsy recover completely, without treatment, in several months
Some people who have severe Bell palsy and can't move one side of their face at all may not recover fully
If you’ve had symptoms for less than 48 hours, doctors may give you medicine called a corticosteroid that can make full recovery even more likely
If you cannot close your eye all the way, your doctor may give you eye drops or a patch to protect your eye from drying out too much