In the past, there has been some disagreement among health professionals about whether Bell's palsy is best treated using steroids, anti-viral medications, or a combination of both.
However, following a large-scale medical trial that was completed in 2007, the evidence seems to suggest that steroids are the most effective treatment method and, specifically, a steroid medication called prednisolone.
Prednisolone works by helping to reduce inflammation, which should then help to speed up your recovery.
Most people with Bell's palsy are advised to take prednisolone tablets twice-a-day, for 10 days.
Possible side effects of prednisolone include:
- abdominal pain,
- increased appetite,
- difficulty sleeping,
- oral thrush (a fungal infection of the mouth),
- tiredness, and
However, these side effects should improve within a few days as your body gets used to the medication. Do not drive if you find that your medication is making you dizzy, or sleepy.
See your GP if you develop symptoms of oral thrush because the condition can usually be successfully treated using an anti-fungal medication. The main symptom of oral thrush is white, cream, or yellow spots that appear on the inside of your mouth and tongue.
As you come to the end of your course of steroid medication, your GP may recommend that you gradually reduce your dose. This will help to reduce the possibility of you experiencing any withdrawal symptoms, such as tiredness, or vomiting.
Tears play an important part in helping to protect your eyes by keeping them clean and free of dust, and preventing bacteria from causing eye infections.
However, if your eye is constantly exposed, your tears can evaporate, leaving your eye vulnerable to damage and infection. It is therefore very important to keep your eye lubricated.
Your GP will give you eye drops that contain 'artificial tears' that you will need to use during the day, plus an ointment which you should use at night. If you are unable to shut your eye during the night time, your GP will give you some surgical tape that you can use to tape your eye shut.
If your eye symptoms worsen, you should go straight to your local accident and emergency (A&E) department, or the ophthalmology department of your local hospital, for assessment.
The majority of people who have Bell's palsy will make a full recovery within nine months. If you have not made a complete recovery by this time, you may have experienced more extensive nerve damage, and further treatment may be required.
One treatment option is known as 'mime therapy'. Mime therapy is a form of physiotherapy where the physiotherapist will teach you a series of exercises that will strengthen the muscles in your face, improving their coordination and range of movement.
Physiotherapy has been successful in a number of Bell's palsy cases, although it may not be suitable, or effective, for everyone.
Another possible treatment option is plastic surgery. While the surgeon may not be able to restore nerve function, they may be able to improve the appearance and symmetry of your face.