Bell’s palsy is a condition that causes the facial muscles to weaken or become paralyzed. It’s caused by trauma to the 7th cranial nerve. This nerve controls muscles of facial expression, eyelid movement, and muscles of the forehead and neck.
Bells palsy is not as uncommon as is generally believed. Worldwide statistics set the frequency at just over .02% of the population (with geographical variations). In human terms this is 1 of every 5000 people over the course of a lifetime and 40,000 Americans every year.
The percentage of left or right side cases is approximately equal, and remains equal for recurrences. The incidence of Bells palsy in males and females, as well as in the various races is also approximately equal. The chances of the condition being mild or severe, and the rate of recovery is also equal.
Older people are more likely to be afflicted, but children are not immune to it. Children tend to recover well. Diabetics are more than 4 times more likely to develop Bells palsy than the general population.
The last trimester of pregnancy is considered to be a time of increased risk for Bell’s palsy. Conditions that compromise the immune system such as HIV or sarcoidosis increase the odds of facial paralysis occurring and recurring.