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Bell's palsy

Bell's palsy is temporary weakness or lack of movement affecting 1 side of the face. Most people get better within 9 months.

Unlike a stroke, the facial weakness develops gradually.

Treatments for Bell's palsy include:

  • a 10-day course of steroid medicine
  • eyedrops and eye ointment to stop the affected eye drying out
  • surgical tape to keep the eye closed at bedtime

The GP might prescribe a type of steroid called prednisolone. Treatment with prednisolone should begin within 3 days (72 hours) of the symptoms starting.

Bell's palsy is rare in children, and most children who are affected make a full recovery without treatment.

Most people make a full recovery within 9 months, but it can take longer. In a small number of cases, the facial weakness can be permanent.

Go back to see a GP if there are no signs of improvement after 3 weeks. Some cases might need to be treated with surgery.

Living with Bell's palsy can make you feel depressed, stressed or anxious. Speak to a GP if it's affecting your mental health.

Because it's probably caused by an infection, Bell's palsy cannot usually be prevented. It may be linked to the herpes virus.

You'll usually only get Bell's palsy once, but it can sometimes come back. This is more likely if you have a family history of the condition.