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Bell’s Palsy

Bell’s palsy is a disorder of the nerve that controls certain muscles of the face.

People with Bell’s palsy lose control of some or all of the muscles on one half of the face; consequently, the face looks asymmetrical. Rarely are both sides of the face affected. The cause is unknown, and the disorder usually resolves without treatment within six to twelve months.

People with diabetes or hypertension have greater-than-average risk for Bell’s palsy.1 2 3 While no research has investigated whether better control of these conditions may help prevent Bell’s palsy, people with Bell’s palsy should be checked for diabetes and hypertension, especially if the palsy occurs repeatedly or affects both sides of the face.

 

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Vitamin B12 (injections)

 
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For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

 

What are the symptoms of Bell’s palsy?

Some common symptoms of Bell’s palsy include a rapid onset of weakness, numbness, heaviness, or paralysis of one side of the face. People with Bell’s palsy may also have symptoms of pain behind the ear, inability to completely close one eye, drooling, and speech difficulties.

Nutritional supplements that may be helpful for bell’s palsy

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause nerve degeneration,4 and both oral5 and injected6 7 vitamin B12 have been used to treat many types of nerve disorders.8 One older case report described successful treatment of chronic Bell’s palsy with vitamin B12 injections of 500 to 1,000 mcg given every one to two days.9 A more recent trial compared the effect of 500 mcg of injected vitamin B12 (in the form of methylcobalamin) given three times weekly for at least eight weeks—steroid medication, or both. Researchers found significantly faster recovery in the groups given B12 injections with or without steroids, compared to those given steroids alone.10 These findings agree with earlier reports on the effectiveness of methylcobalamin injections for Bell’s palsy.11 12 It is unlikely that oral vitamin B12 would be similarly effective. People seeking B12 injections should consult a physician.

Are there any side effects or interactions with bell’s palsy?

Refer to the individual supplement for information about any side effects or interactions.

Holistic approaches that may be helpful for bell’s palsy

Many reports claim that acupuncture speeds recovery from Bell’s palsy,13 14 15 16 but no controlled trials have been done to confirm this is neither a placebo effect nor the natural course of healing.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBT) is a procedure in which the patient breaths 100% oxygen at pressures up to three times greater than normal atmospheric pressure. A well controlled study of Bell’s palsy patients compared HBT plus a placebo tablet with fake oxygen therapy plus steroid medication.17 HBT produced significantly faster recovery (22 vs. 34 days) compared to the use of steroids.

Biofeedback techniques (using simple electronic devices to measure and report information about a person’s biological system) have been reported to help limit the deterioration of muscle function and speed recovery in Bell’s palsy.18 19 However, a controlled trial of patients with chronic facial paralysis (including some with Bell’s palsy) found that using a mirror as feedback was as effective as a mirror plus electrical biofeedback for improving facial symmetry and muscle function.20

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