Paralysis of the face
Facial paralysis means that a person is no longer able to move some or all of the muscles on one or both sides of the face.
Facial paralysis is almost always caused by:
In people who are otherwise healthy, facial paralysis is often due to Bell palsy. This is a condition in which the facial nerve becomes inflamed.
Stroke may cause facial paralysis that comes on rapidly. With a stroke, other muscles on one side of the body may also be involved.
Facial paralysis that is due to a brain tumor usually develops slowly. Symptoms can include headaches, seizures, or hearing loss.
In newborns, facial paralysis may be caused by trauma during birth.
Other causes include:
Follow your health care provider's instructions on how to take care of yourself at home. Take any medicines as directed.
If the eye cannot fully close, the cornea must be protected from drying out with prescription eye drops or gel. An eye patch is sometimes required to protect the eye.
Physical and speech therapy can help preserve or restore function.
Contact your provider if you have weakness or numbness in your face. Seek emergency medical help right away if you have these symptoms along with a severe headache, seizure, or blindness.
The provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:
Tests that may be ordered include:
Treatment depends on the cause. Follow your provider's treatment recommendations.
The provider may refer you to a physical, speech, or occupational therapist. If facial paralysis from Bell palsy lasts for more than 6 to 12 months, surgery may be recommended to help the eye close and improve the appearance of the face.
Mattox DE, Vivas EX. Clinical disorders of the facial nerve. In: Flint PW, Francis HW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 172.
Meyers SL. Acute facial paralysis. In: Kellerman RD, Rakel DP, Heidelbaugh JJ, Lee EM, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2023. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:725-726.
Smith G, Shy ME. Peripheral neuropathies. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 392.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 1/23/2023
Reviewed By: Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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