Bell's Palsy is a neurological disorder that causes the facial muscles on one side of the face to suddenly weaken or become paralyzed. The muscles that close the eye control the tear glands, as well as control one of the salivary glands and the taste buds in front of the tongue are all controlled by the facial nerve. When damage or trauma is caused to the facial nerve, it usually only affects one side of the face.
The electrochemical signals sent from the brain to these muscles travel along the facial nerve. If the facial nerve is disrupted, no signals can get through to these muscles and, depending on how many of the nerve fibers within the facial nerve are involved, the affected half of the face experiences muscle weakness or paralysis and this is what is known as Bell's Palsy.
People with Bell's Palsy experience an interference with normal facial actions and functions such as closing the eye, eating, smiling and their speech may also be slurred. Other symptoms which are present include tearing of the eye, loss of taste, slurred speech, sensitivity to sound, facial paralysis and drooling. This condition occurs suddenly, and usually peaks within 48 hours.
People often think that they are experiencing a stroke, and are not familiar with the milder symptoms of Bell's Palsy that often precede the involvement of the facial muscles.