In many cases, no treatment is needed. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms.
Corticosteroids or antiviral (acyclovir and valacyclovir) medications may reduce swelling and relieve pressure on the facial nerve. You must take these drugs early (preferably within 24 hours of when symptoms start) for them to be most effective. However, there are no published studies showing that antiviral medications speed up or improve recovery from Bell’s palsy.
Your health care provider may recommend lubricating eye drops or eye ointments to protect the eye if you cannot close it completely. You may need to wear an eye patch during sleep.
Surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve (decompression surgery) is controversial and has not been shown to routinely benefit people with Bell’s palsy.
About 60 – 80% of cases go away completely within a few weeks to months. Sometimes the condition results in permanent changes. The disorder is not life threatening.
- Abnormal movements, such as tears when laughing or salivation at the wrong times (synkinesis)
- Change in appearance of the face (disfigurement) from loss of movement
- Chronic problems with taste
- Chronic spasm of face muscles or eyelids
- Damage to the eye (corneal ulcers and infections)
Calling Your Health Care Provider
Call your health care provider right away if your face droops or you have other symptoms of Bell’s palsy. Your health care provider can rule out other, more serious conditions, such as stroke.
Review Date : 2/1/2009
Reviewed By : Linda Vorvick, MD, Family Physician, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.