What Is Facial Nerve Paralysis?

Damaged or inflamed facial nerves can cause temporary facial paralysis. A specialized type of physical therapy available at UPMC Rehabilitation Institute can help.

Temporary facial paralysis can affect a person’s daily function, communication with others, self-esteem, and quality of life. However, with facial nerve therapy and the expertise of our therapists, patients may recover some or all of their facial movements and regain their facial expressions.

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What Are Facial Nerves?

The facial nerves are pathways from your brain to the muscles of your face. There is one facial nerve on each side of your face. They control the facial muscles of expression that help you smile, frown, wrinkle your nose, and raise your eyebrows and forehead. These nerves also are responsible for most of your taste sensation and tear production.

Facial nerve inflammation or damage can prevent facial muscles from responding, which can affect a person’s ability to move their face. It can lead to partial or total paralysis of the face.

Facial paralysis can be upsetting for the person experiencing it. It affects their daily function, communication with others, self-esteem, and quality of life.

Issues Affecting the Facial Nerves

Several conditions can cause issues with the facial nerve, including:

  • Accidents and facial trauma.
  • Facial surgery, including cosmetic procedures like facelifts.
  • Bell’s palsy.
  • Birth defects.
  • Cancer of the salivary gland and meningioma (skull-base tumor).
  • Ear infections or ear tumors.
  • Facial palsy following injury, surgery, or stroke.
  • Facial spasms and pain.
  • Facial synkinesis (inappropriate/unintended muscle movements that accompany certain voluntary
    facial expressions).
  • Guillain-Barré
    (an autoimmune disease).
  • Lyme disease.
  • Nerve blocks for dental procedures and neuropathies.
  • Ramsay Hunt syndrome (a neurological disorder caused by infection from chickenpox or shingles virus).
  • Sarcoidosis.
  • Stroke.

Symptoms of Facial Nerve Paralysis

The symptoms of facial nerve paralysis can vary depending on the cause of the damage or inflammation. They can include:

  • Slurred speech.
  • Drooling.
  • Food/liquid falling out of the mouth while eating/drinking.
  • Drooping eyebrow on the affected side.
  • Facial twitches or tics.
  • Inability to move facial muscles, like your forehead, eyebrow, and corner of your mouth.
  • Lopsided smile or facial appearance.
  • Nasal blockage.
  • Loss of smell or taste.
  • Trouble blinking or closing your eyes.
  • Amplified sounds in your ear on the affected side.

When To Seek Help for Facial Paralysis

Tell your health care provider right away if you experience:

  • Difficulty eating, drinking, or speaking.
  • Facial drooping or tics.
  • Lopsided facial appearance.
  • Loss of smell or taste.
  • Problems blinking or completely closing your eye.

At UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, our therapists have advanced training in treating facial paralysis and pain. Our emphasis leverages a combination of evidence-based research, hands-on care, and a personalized and functional approach to rehabilitation.

For more information, visit our website or call 1-888-723-4277.

About UPMC Rehabilitation Institute

The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers inpatient, outpatient, and transitional rehabilitation, as well as outpatient physician services so that care is available to meet the needs of our patients at each phase of the recovery process. Renowned physiatrists from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, as well as highly trained physical, occupational, and speech therapists, provide individualized care in 12 inpatient units within acute care hospitals and over 80 outpatient locations close to home and work.