Bell's palsy is the most common form of facial paralysis in the United States, with approximately 15,000 to 40,000 cases a year. Named after a 19th century Scottish surgeon, Bell's palsy is actually a diagnosis of exclusion – meaning the true reason for the facial palsy is unknown.
The most common symptom of Bell's palsy is a sudden onset of paralysis on one side of the face, which is often associated with ear pain. Bell's palsy has been reported to occur more frequently with some other conditions, namely pregnancy and diabetes.
During pregnancy, facial paralysis tends to occur most commonly in the third trimester, and usually resolves itself after delivery. In other cases, facial paralysis may occur in the immediate postpartum period.
Most patients fully recover from Bell's palsy. A primary care physician, neurologist, or otolaryngologist usually diagnoses and treats the condition.