Symptoms of Bell's palsy 

The symptoms of Bell's palsy can vary – from a mild numbness of the face to total paralysis.

The symptoms develop quickly and reach their peak within 48 hours. They include:

  • weakness or paralysis in one side of the face, which may make it difficult to close the eyelid and cause the side of the mouth to droop
  • irritation of the affected eye, such as dryness or increased tear production
  • earache or pain underneath the ear on the affected side of the face
  • an altered or reduced sense of taste
  • increased sensitivity to sound in the affected ear
  • drooling from the mouth on the affected side of the face
  • dryness of the mouth
  • pain around the jaw
  • headache
  • ringing in one or both ears (tinnitus)
  • dizziness
  • difficulty eating or drinking
  • impaired speech

In most cases of Bell's palsy, the symptoms will begin to improve within two to three weeks. Most people make a full recovery within nine months.

When to seek medical advice

As well as being a symptom of Bell's palsy, facial weakness or paralysis can also be a sign of a more serious condition – such as a stroke.

Therefore, you should visit your nearest A&E department immediately or call 999 for an ambulance if you or someone you are with develops sudden facial paralysis so a doctor can determine the cause.


Page last reviewed: 14/10/2014

Next review due: 14/10/2016