What Causes Facial Paralysis?

November 14, 2022

What Causes Facial Paralysis?

Many conditions and issues can cause facial paralysis. It occurs when the facial nerve is injured. This nerve is responsible for many facial functions, such as making facial expressions, producing tears, dampening noises, providing taste to the tongue, and creating sensations behind the ear.

An injury to this nerve can cause many issues depending on the location and degree of the injury. There are several causes of facial paralysis, which we’ll be outlining below.

Bell’s Palsy

The most frequent cause of facial paralysis is Bell’s palsy. Each year, about 40,000 Americans experience facial paralysis because of Bell’s palsy. This condition involves an inflamed facial nerve, which may lead to drooping muscles on one of the sides of the face.

It’s still unknown what causes all cases of Bell’s palsy but it is likely related to a viral infection of the facial nerve. Thankfully, most people who have Bell’s palsy will recover in a few weeks or months.


When someone is having a stroke, the same symptoms are often experienced as those who have Bell’s palsy. However, extra symptoms not seen in Bell’s palsy are also associated with a stroke. This can include weakness in the limbs on one side of the body, seizure, dizziness, changes in the level of consciousness, vision changes, loss of coordination, and confusion.

Distinguishing between a stroke and other conditions can be challenging. It’s best to contact a doctor immediately if facial paralysis is present. If someone may be having a stroke, reach out to 911 as quickly as possible.

Medical Procedures or Surgery

In some cases, facial paralysis may accidentally be caused through medical treatment. It also may be part of some procedures that require the facial nerve to be removed. Facial paralysis may occur from skull base surgery, cosmetic procedures like facelifts, nerve blocks in the face, dental procedures, treatment of jaw fractures, and parotid or mastoid surgery.

In some cases, facial paralysis will be permanent, but that isn’t always true. Procedures near the nerve might cause temporary paralysis that clears up over a few months.

Facial Trauma

The most common source of facial paralysis from trauma is through penetrating injuries involving projectiles or cuts. If the injury is near the middle of the face, recovery may occur without surgery. However, if the injury is closer to the lateral part fo the face or near the ear, the nerve usually needs to be repaired soon after the injury.

An experienced plastic surgeon should decide whether to repair the nerve and how to do so. Someone who has training in microsurgery and facial nerve surgery tends to be the best option.

Other Causes of Facial Paralysis

There are other reasons for facial paralysis. For instance, Moebius Syndrome involves the sixth cranial nerve responsible for some eye movements. Intracranial trauma and extracranial trauma can also lead to facial paralysis. Tumors, viruses, and Lyme disease can also be potential causes.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to speak with a doctor if you or a loved one is experiencing facial paralysis. Since it may not be clear what is causing the symptom, a physician can run tests and determine the issue. This is important to ensure the right treatment is provided to ensure the good health of the person who has facial paralysis.