Skip Navigation
Bell’s palsy is the leading cause of facial paralysis and affects 20-30 out of every 100,000 people each year. At The University of Kansas Health System, we have an experienced team of physicians who diagnose and treat Bell's palsy and other facial paralysis conditions.

What is Bell's palsy?

Bell's palsy is a condition that causes the sudden onset weakness of muscles on one side of the face. This can cause difficulty eating, smiling and closing an eye. Some patients have associated pain with the condition as well as sensitivity to loud noises and altered taste sensation.

Bell’s palsy is considered idiopathic, which means it arises spontaneously without a known cause, but research points toward reactivation of a dormant virus (herpes simplex virus) as a possible cause. Symptoms may be similar to stroke or related conditions. If stroke is suspected, call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.

Bell's palsy symptoms and risks

The majority of patients who experience a Bell’s palsy episode will have a complete recovery with return of normal facial function. However, some will develop long-standing difficulties with involuntary facial movements, facial tightness and spasms, referred to as synkinesis. These symptoms can significantly impact quality of life, leading to mental and behavioral health disorders including depression.
Red, vertical emergency department street sign.


Bell's palsy should not be self-diagnosed; the most successful outcomes benefit from rapid intervention.

Symptoms are similar to stroke or related conditions. If you're experiencing symptoms, call 911 to seek immediate assistance.

Bell's palsy diagnosis and screening

Upon initial development of facial weakness or paralysis, it is important to seek medical care for evaluation to ensure a correct diagnosis. Sometimes further testing is warranted. If a diagnosis of Bell’s palsy is made, early treatment involves steroids and protection of the eye. There is some debate as to the utility of antiviral medications upon initial presentation.

By seeking immediate medical care, you can get an accurate diagnosis for the cause of facial paralysis and begin treatment, which may improve outcomes for complete recovery of facial function and movement.

Bell's palsy treatment

For those who do not have complete recovery following Bell’s palsy, facial paralysis care options may improve facial symmetry, function and sense of well-being. These include facial therapy with neuromuscular retraining as well as botulinum toxin (BOTOX) medicinal therapy.

For those with unmanageable symptoms, surgical options for treatment include various myectomies (DAO, DLI, buccinator) as well as selective neurectomy or selective neurolysis.

Why choose us for Bell's palsy treatment

As one of the only comprehensive facial paralysis treatment providers in the region, we utilize a team of healthcare workers to deliver state-of-the art care. Our team includes medical physicians, facial therapists and facial plastic surgeons working together to provide specialized care for Bell's palsy. We specifically tailor our treatment approach to each individual patient’s needs.