Facial paralysis is the inability to move the muscles on one or both sides of your face due to nerve damage. Possible causes include inflammation, trauma, stroke or tumors. Treatment depends on the underlying condition that led to paralysis. Facial paralysis may be temporary or permanent.
Facial paralysis happens when your facial nerve (cranial nerve #7) becomes damaged. This results in weakness, droopiness and a loss of facial movement on one side (unilateral) or both sides (bilateral) of your face.
Facial nerve damage can occur for several reasons, including infection, trauma or stroke. It can also occur without a known cause, which is referred to as Bell’s palsy. Face paralysis may complete or partial and can be temporary or permanent.
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Some people are born with facial nerve paralysis. In people who aren’t born with facial paralysis, the condition develops for one of two reasons:
Facial paralysis causes may include:
A healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and review your medical history. They’ll perform a physical examination and ask you to try to make various facial movements, like:
In addition to a physical examination, your healthcare provider may request imaging tests, such as:
Facial paralysis treatment depends on the underlying cause. For example:
There are several nonsurgical and surgical facial paralysis treatments available:
Nonsurgical treatments may include
Surgical treatments may include
Each case is unique and each person has their own set of specific needs. Your healthcare provider will talk to you in detail about a treatment option that’s right for you.
If face paralysis affects your eyes, it can lead to chronic dry eyes and other complications. In these cases, your healthcare provider will recommend treatment to prevent your eyes from drying out too much. This might include:
In many cases, you can’t prevent the conditions or situations that may result in facial paralysis — particularly in cases of trauma. And in instances like Bell’s palsy, symptoms often occur with no warning.
You can, however, take steps to reduce your risk of stroke — which will, in turn, reduce your risk for stroke-related facial paralysis:
If you develop facial paralysis, call a healthcare provider immediately. They can determine what caused your symptoms and treat any underlying conditions.
If you or someone you know develops stroke symptoms — such as difficulty walking, coordination issues, blurred vision or slurred speech — call 911 or head to your nearest emergency room.
In some cases, facial paralysis is permanent. However, many people may see improvement or complete recovery with time and/or treatment. (Bell’s palsy usually goes away on its own in a few months.)
Though experts haven’t been able to prove it yet, many healthcare providers recognize a significant link between stress and the onset of Bell’s palsy. Experts believe that stress can weaken your immune system, resulting in damage to your facial nerve.
Facial paralysis itself isn’t dangerous, but it can cause significant symptoms while present. It can also indicate a serious underlying condition, such as stroke. You should never ignore facial paralysis. If you or a loved one develop facial paralysis, call a healthcare provider right away.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you develop facial paralysis — whether gradually or instantaneously — you should see a healthcare provider immediately. Though facial nerve paralysis isn’t dangerous itself, you might have a serious underlying health condition. Prompt medical treatment is the best way to foster a full recovery with limited damage. Even so, sometimes, facial paralysis is permanent. In these cases, your healthcare provider will work with you to reduce your risk of further damage and improve your quality of life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/13/2022.
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