Ear exam

Facial Nerve Paralysis

Injury to the facial nerve leads to paralysis of the facial muscles.

Facial muscle paralysis— the inability to move the muscles of the face— leads to significant cosmetic deformity, inability to close the eye, and poor oral competence. It most commonly is caused by a viral infection in which case it is called Bell’s palsy. Injury to the facial nerve can also be associated with certain tumors of the ear, brain and lateral skull base. It can also occur from infection and trauma.

At the Pacific Eye, Ear and Skull Base Center, we have a large amount of experience diagnosing and treating facial nerve injuries. By using the latest state-of-the-art diagnostic, medical and surgical techniques we help patients achieve optimal outcomes.


The facial nerve is the nerve that controls the muscles of the face. It travels from the brain, through the ear bone and exits the skull behind the ear where it travels through the face to the facial muscles.

Facial nerve injuries lead to weakness of the facial muscles which is usually affecting just one side of the face. Sometimes paralysis can occur rapidly or suddenly overnight and in other people it progressively worsens. The weakness can be partial or full. This leads to facial drooping, inability to fully close the eye, and difficulty with speech and eating.

Diagnosis & Treatment

In most cases, diagnosis is based on imaging with CT or MRI imaging. The cause of the injury is taken into account for further diagnosis.

Treatment is based on the cause of the injury. For viral infections, facial nerve paralysis is typically treated with steroids and antiviral medications. Injuries caused by tumors or trauma often require surgery.

Written and reviewed by:
We are a highly specialized team of medical professionals with extensive neurological and cranial disorder knowledge, expertise and writing experience.
Last updated: April 6, 2020