Bell’s palsy is one of the more common types of facial paralysis. Symptoms may appear over a few hours or a few days and can take up to six months to go away. Treatment is generally symptomatic, as the disorder tends to heal on its own over time. Generally, one half of the face will sag near the mouth and eye, making facial expressions difficult. Additionally, it may change the way tears and saliva are created or things are tasted, and it can potentially cause small aches and pains around the face and head.
Exactly what causes this condition experts aren’t totally sure; however there are hypotheses. The facial nerve, or 7th cranial nerve, passes through the fallopian canal, a small passageway made of bone, to the facial muscles. When this nerve become inflamed or swollen, Bell’s palsy can result. Many experts suspect there is a viral infection connection between the inflammation of the nerve and the resulting paralysis. Several viruses, including herpes and chickenpox are linked to such a response. The facial nerve swells in response to the viruses. Sometimes only the covering of the nerves are damaged, and cases like these heal more quickly. Others may swell to such an extent that the actual nerve can be damaged.