What is facial paralysis?

Facial paralysis is the loss of facial movement due to nerve damage . Your facial muscles tilt or weaken. It usually occurs on only one side of the face and is usually caused by:

  • Infection or inflammation of the facial nerve
  • Head trauma
  • Head or neck tumor
  • Stroke

Facial paralysis can appear suddenly (in the case of Bell’s palsy, for example) or it can occur gradually over a period of months (in the case of a head or neck tumor). Depending on the cause, the paralysis can last for a short or long period of time.

What are the causes of facial paralysis?

Bell’s palsy

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Bell’s palsy is the most common form of facial paralysis. Each year, 40,000 Americans experience sudden facial paralysis due to Bell’s palsy. This condition causes the muscles on one side of the face to noticeably sag.

No one knows exactly why Bell’s palsy occurs. It may be related to a viral infection of the facial nerve. The good news is that most Bell’s palsy patients make a full recovery in about six months.

Other causes of facial paralysis include:

  1. skull fracture or injury to the face
  2. head or neck tumor
  3. stroke
  4. chronic middle ear infection or other ear damage
  5. high blood pressure
  6. diabetes
  7. Lyme disease, a bacterial disease transmitted to humans by tick bites
  8. Ramsay-Hunt syndrome, a viral infection of the facial nerve
  9. autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, which affects the brain and spinal cord, and Guillain-Barre syndrome, which affects the nervous system

Birth can cause temporary facial paralysis in some babies. However, 90 percent of babies with these types of injuries make a full recovery without treatment. You can also have facial paralysis at birth , due to certain congenital syndromes, such as Moebius syndrome and Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome.

Symptoms of facial paralysis

Facial paralysis has a major impact on a person’s quality of life. You may lose confidence and feel embarrassed. Also, facial paralysis can cause:

  • facial pain
  • headaches or dizziness
  • earaches, ringing in one or both ears, and sensitivity to sound
  • difficulty speaking
  • inability to express emotions
  • difficulty eating or drinking
  • drooling
  • muscle spasms
  • tearing of the eye
  • dry eyes and mouth

Patients who are unable to close their affected eye will need to take extra care to help prevent lasting damage to the eye.

How is the cause of facial paralysis diagnosed?

Be sure to discuss all of your symptoms with your doctor, and share information about any other conditions or diseases you may have.

Your doctor may also ask you to try to move your facial muscles by raising your eyebrow, closing your eyes, smiling, and frowning. Tests such as electromyography (which measures the health of the muscles and the nerves that control them), imaging tests, and blood tests can help your doctor know why your face is paralyzed.


Bell’s palsy

The American Academy of Otolaryngology estimates that about 85 percent of people with Bell’s palsy will recover on their own, with or without treatment. However, studies have shown that taking oral steroids (such as prednisone) and antiviral drugs right away can help increase your chances of full recovery. Physical therapy can also help strengthen muscles and prevent permanent damage.

For those patients who do not fully recover, cosmetic surgery can help correct eyelids that do not close completely or a crooked smile.

Other Facial Paralysis

Facial paralysis due to other causes may benefit from surgery to repair or replace damaged nerves or muscles, or to remove tumors. Small weights can also be surgically placed on the inside of the upper eyelid to help it close.

Some patients may experience uncontrolled muscle movements in addition to paralysis.

Eye Care

The greatest danger of facial paralysis is the possibility of eye damage. Facial paralysis often keeps one or both eyelids completely closed. When the eye cannot blink normally, the cornea can dry out, and particles can enter and damage the eye.

Patients with facial paralysis should use artificial tears throughout the day and apply a lubricant at night. They may also need the use of a special clear plastic humidity chamber to keep the eye moist and protected.

What is the outlook for Facial Palsy?

Although it can take six months or longer to recover from Bell’s palsy, most people make a full recovery, with or without treatment.

Unfortunately, even with surgery, some cases of facial paralysis can never go away completely. For these patients, physical therapy and eye care can help prevent further damage and improve quality of life.

Bell’s Palsy Naturally Cured with Cayenne Pepper

Some people opt for a naturally cured Bell’s palsy treatment with cayenne. Cayenne pepper has a long and distinguished history in herbal medicine.


Cayenne pepper (Capsicum) improves blood flow. Herbalists use it to treat a variety of disorders, and we consider it to be a powerful healing agent. Although it is not known for sure what causes Bell’s palsy, the theory behind the use of cayenne is that, the flow of blood has somehow been restricted to the nerves of the face and head. This makes the characteristic unilateral facial palsy found in Bell’s palsy victims. Therefore Cayenne restores blood flow to the affected nerves.

Generally, patients take capsicum pills to improve blood flow. The pills are readily available in health food stores or online. Capsicum pills can cause blood pressure to rise, so if you suffer from high blood pressure or take medication to reduce high blood pressure, consult a qualified herbalist or physician before taking any remedy that contains capsicum.

Another form of capsicum is a topical cream to rub into the skin. Companies often market these types of creams for the treatment of arthritis. Like all topical preparations, try it on a patch of skin on the arm or inside the elbow area first by waiting twenty-four to forty-eight hours before using on the face, and be sure to consult with an herbal specialist if you are not. sure about using any herb. You can check how to make a cream for arthritis and joint pain.

Holistic Remedies for Bell’s Palsy

There is no evidence that cayenne, or any herb, will cure Bell’s palsy. Most Bell’s palsy treatments include various herbs taken as tinctures, infusions, or capsules. Herbs used to treat viral infections can also improve results for Bell’s palsy. These herbs include echinacea and goldenseal. Consult a qualified herbalist for the appropriate herbs, as Bell’s palsy manifests differently between individuals and therefore individualized treatment is required.

Doctors often tell patients that episodes of Bell’s palsy occur, when the immune system is compromised. The herpes virus, once contracted, remains latent in the nervous system. It can come back as shingles, herpes outbreaks, or other illnesses. One theory is that the latent herpes virus causes Bell’s palsy as it attacks certain facial nerves. To prevent viral outbreaks, maintain general good health.

Follow healthy eating guidelines, incorporate healing foods, get enough sleep, and reduce stress through meditation and other stress management techniques. All of this will go a long way toward reducing the symptoms of Bell’s palsy and preventing future attacks.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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