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Bell's Palsy Treatment Overview

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Care Plan

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First steps to consider

  • If you have symptoms of Bell’s palsy, like drooping or paralysis on one side of your face, you need to be seen by a healthcare provider immediately.
  • Bell’s palsy symptoms can be similar to those of very serious conditions like stroke, so it’s important to see a doctor immediately. Often the ER is the best place to be evaluated.
  • Treatment includes taking oral steroids to reduce inflammation.

Emergency Care

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Go to the ER if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • You have facial drooping and risk factors for a stroke (high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol).
  • You have other symptoms along with facial weakness (like arm or leg weakness).
  • You have double vision or a severe headache.

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When to see a healthcare provider

You should see a healthcare provider right away if you have symptoms of Bell’s palsy like facial numbness or drooping. These symptoms can also be signs of more serious conditions like a stroke, so you should be evaluated at the ER. In some cases, like in younger people with a low risk of stroke, you may be able to see your primary care provider for a same-day urgent visit. The key is to be seen early to be checked right away.

Getting diagnosed

Bell’s palsy can often be diagnosed based on a physical exam alone. Your doctor will examine your face, paying close attention to the movements of your eye and mouth on the affected side. They may ask you to raise your eyebrows, squeeze your eyes closed, smile, or puff out your cheeks. In some rare cases, your doctor may need imaging (like an MRI) to rule out other causes like a stroke or brain tumor, or blood tests to check for an infection like Lyme disease.

What to expect from your doctor visit

After diagnosing you with Bell’s palsy, your provider will recommend medications that reduce your symptoms and decrease inflammation. You will likely be given oral steroids. You will also be given instructions for eye care because your ability to close your eye may be compromised. They may prescribe lubricants to prevent the eye from drying out.

Prescription medications for Bell’s palsy

  • Prednisone
  • Valacyclovir (Valtrex)

Types of providers for Bell’s palsy

  • An emergency department physician can examine you to make sure you are not having a stroke.
  • A primary care provider can treat mild to moderate symptoms.
  • A neurologist may be needed to help make the diagnosis and guide recovery.
  • A physical therapist can show you exercises that help strengthen the muscles in the face.
  • An ophthalmologist is an eye doctor you may need to see if your eyelid movement does not improve or if you develop pain or redness in your eye.
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