Bell’s palsy is a weakness of the facial nerve. The facial nerve is the nerve that controls expression on each side of the face as well as tearing, taste, and hearing to some extent.
Someone with Bell’s palsy experiences facial weakness that develops suddenly or over a period of 48 hours. Often, the patient’s family members will notice a crooked smile or slurred speech. Patients often report that they notice the symptoms when they first get up in the morning. Other symptoms include a sensation of facial numbness or tingling, a sensation of pulling of the face or mouth to one side, sensitivity to loud sounds, excessive tearing or dry eye, difficulty eating, headache, pain behind the ear, or a change in taste.
Bell’s palsy affects about 1 in 5000 people in the United States each year. It can occur at any age and appears more often in pregnant women, people with diabetes, influenza, a cold or another respiratory illness than in other people. If you have a slowly progressive facial weakness, a facial weakness that has not recovered within 3-6 months, a facial weakness with other concerning symptoms, persistent headaches, or a recurrent facial weakness, you may not have Bell’s Palsy. You should have a complete evaluation by a physician.