To the untrained eye, Bell’s palsy symptoms can resemble stroke symptoms. Both involve sudden weakness in the face and facial paralysis. However, while a stroke typically affects just the lower part of the face, Bell’s palsy can cause the entire side of the face to droop.
“If a patient comes to the emergency room and cannot raise his eyebrows or close his eyes well, he usually has Bell’s palsy,” says Andrew Godbey, MD, MSPH, neurologist at Saint Francis Medical Center. “If he seeks treatment within three days of the symptom onset, we can give him steroids. Steroids have been shown to give patients a better chance of a full recovery.”
No one knows what causes Bell’s palsy, however, it has been linked to viral infections and diabetes. “While some patients recover fully, others may never regain full function on that side of their face,” says Godbey.