Several treatment options are available for Bell’s palsy, and some patients will recover without seeking treatment. It is important, however, to seek medical attention to discuss a treatment plan and avoid misdiagnosis. Some people benefit from taking prescribed oral steroids, and it may help to get this treatment as soon as possible after the onset of facial weakness.
Your primary care provider, or ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist, or otolaryngologist, may prescribe antiviral drugs in addition to oral steroids. Other experimental treatments may include electronic nerve stimulation, electroneurography, hyperbaric therapy, or acupuncture. There is conflicting evidence about how well some surgical and experimental treatments work. Talk with your doctor about risks and potential side effects with any treatment.
One very important treatment consideration involves proper care of the eye if a paralyzed eyelid does not allow the lid to close. If the eye is left open, it dries out, which can injure the eye and lead to permanent vision loss. It is very important to moisten the eye by using eye ointment or eye drops. Wearing an eye patch or taping the eye shut may be other treatments recommended by your doctor, and referral to an eye doctor, or ophthalmologist, may be necessary.
Most patients recover at least to some degree. Studies show that facial function is completely restored in about 70 percent of Bell’s palsy patients who have complete paralysis within six months, and as high as 94 percent of patients who have partial paralysis. Some patients recover quickly, and some patients may have some degree of long lasting paralysis.
If your condition does not improve over time, there are some procedures that can help reduce the effects of Bell’s palsy. You should follow up with your doctor if your symptoms do not get better within three months, or if symptoms get worse. In some instances, patients withdraw socially due to cosmetic changes and may require psychologic support. That’s why it’s also very important that you monitor your mental health, and seek counseling or support if you feel overwhelmed by the way your face has changed. Websites that share Bell’s palsy patient stories and pictures may also provide support.