What causes facial paralysis and how should it be treated?

Symptom Database

Facial paralysis, also known as facial nerve paralysis or Bell’s palsy, is a condition that affects the muscles of the face, causing weakness or paralysis. It can be a distressing condition, as it can significantly impact a person’s ability to express emotions and perform everyday tasks. Understanding the causes of facial paralysis and the available treatment options is crucial for those affected by this condition. In this article, we will explore the various causes of facial paralysis and discuss the different treatment approaches.

Causes of Facial Paralysis

Facial paralysis can occur due to various factors, including:

  • Trauma: Facial trauma, such as a fracture or injury to the skull or face, can damage the facial nerve and lead to paralysis.
  • Infection: Viral infections, such as herpes simplex or the varicella-zoster virus, can cause facial paralysis. Bacterial infections, such as Lyme disease or otitis media, can also be responsible.
  • Tumors: Tumors that develop in or around the facial nerve can compress or damage the nerve, resulting in paralysis.
  • Autoimmune Disorders: Conditions like Guillain-Barré syndrome or sarcoidosis can cause inflammation of the facial nerve, leading to paralysis.
  • Genetic Factors: In some cases, facial paralysis may be present at birth or develop later in life due to genetic factors.

Treatment for Facial Paralysis

The treatment for facial paralysis depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. Here are some common treatment approaches:


If the cause of facial paralysis is an infection, antiviral or antibiotic medications may be prescribed to treat the underlying infection and reduce inflammation. Corticosteroids may also be prescribed to reduce swelling and promote nerve recovery.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the treatment of facial paralysis. Facial exercises and massage techniques can help improve muscle strength and coordination, enhance blood circulation, and promote nerve regeneration. These exercises may include:

  • Eye exercises: Moving the eyes in different directions to improve eye coordination and prevent dryness.
  • Facial massage: Gently massaging the affected muscles to improve blood flow and reduce muscle stiffness.
  • Facial exercises: Performing specific movements, such as smiling, frowning, and raising the eyebrows, to strengthen the facial muscles.

Surgical Interventions

In some cases, surgical interventions may be necessary to treat facial paralysis. These procedures aim to repair or reroute the damaged facial nerve or to improve muscle function. Surgical options may include:

  • Nerve grafting: Transplanting a healthy nerve from another part of the body to replace the damaged facial nerve.
  • Nerve decompression: Relieving pressure on the facial nerve by removing or repositioning surrounding structures.
  • Facial reanimation: Using muscle transfers or nerve transfers to restore facial movement and symmetry.

Facial Paralysis Symptoms

The symptoms of facial paralysis can vary depending on the severity and cause of the condition. Common symptoms include:

  • Weakness or paralysis on one side of the face
  • Inability to close one eye or difficulty blinking
  • Drooping of the mouth or inability to smile
  • Loss of taste sensation on the front two-thirds of the tongue
  • Excessive tearing or dryness of the eye

It is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms, as early intervention can improve the chances of recovery.

Facial Paralysis Recovery

The recovery process for facial paralysis can vary from person to person. Some individuals may experience a spontaneous recovery within a few weeks or months, while others may require ongoing treatment and rehabilitation. It is essential to be patient and follow the recommended treatment plan.

During the recovery period, it is crucial to take care of the affected side of the face. Protecting the eye from dryness and injury is essential. Using lubricating eye drops, wearing an eye patch, or using protective eyewear can help prevent complications.

Additionally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing stress levels, and getting enough rest can support the healing process. It is also beneficial to seek emotional support from friends, family, or support groups to cope with the challenges that facial paralysis may present.


Facial paralysis can have a significant impact on a person’s physical and emotional well-being. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for facial paralysis is crucial for those affected by this condition. Whether through medication, physical therapy, or surgical interventions, there are various approaches available to help individuals recover and regain facial function. If you or someone you know is experiencing facial paralysis, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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