Bell’s palsy is a paralysis in the muscles on one side of the face caused by damage to the cranial nerve that controls the muscles in the face. Inflammation of the nerve may occur due to a virus, but often the cause is unknown. Most often, Bell’s palsy will resolve without medical treatment. The symptoms will go away within a few weeks to months in around 60 to 80 percent of individuals affected by the condition, according to MedlinePlus. Some treatments such as antiviral medications or corticosteroids can help relieve pressure, but may not speed the recovery of the condition. Home treatments can relieve symptoms and discomfort caused by Bell’s palsy.
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Due to the paralysis or weakness in the facial muscles, some individuals may experience difficulty in blinking or closing the eye completely. The eyes may also dry out due to a decrease in tear production. Measures to protect the eye help treat the condition. Using an eye patch will protect the eye from harm if it does not close correctly. Some individuals may wear the eye patch during the night, according to the Academy of Family Physicians. Other options for closing the eye include closing it periodically with a finger or taping it closed. Wearing sunglasses when outdoors will help protect it from harsh sunlight. Applying eye drops or ointment to increase moisture relieves discomfort to dry eyes and helps wash out debris.
Applying heat to the face may help treat Bell’s palsy. Using a heating pad set to a low setting or heated gel packs will help relieve swelling at the affected nerve and can help relieve pain. Moist heat, such as a warm, wet washcloth can also help. Some individuals experience pain behind the ear with Bell’s palsy and heat therapy can help stop this discomfort. Massaging the area after the heat may also improve circulation to the affected muscles.
Using physical therapy on the facial muscles can help stimulate the affected nerve and help improve or maintain muscle tone, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. In addition to increasing blood flow, massaging the facial muscles can help relax facial muscles contracted by Bell’s palsy. A therapist may also suggest exercises for the facial muscles for the individual to practice at home, in order to maintain the muscles' tone.