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Update on managing Bell’s palsy

Abstract

Each year in the UK, around 1 in 5,000 people develops Bell’s palsy – idiopathic unilateral lower motor neurone facial weakness of rapid onset.1 Of those who are not treated, about 16% end up with permanent moderate to severe weakness, which can result in facial dysfunction and disfigurement, and psychological difficulties.25 There has been longstanding controversy about what, if any, treatment should be given, with potential alternatives including corticosteroids, antiviral drugs, acupuncture and physiotherapy.6 We last reviewed this condition in 2006, indicating that “published trials on the efficacy of drug treatments have been poor and no firm conclusions can be drawn about the benefit of any single drug”, and “it is unclear what place, if any, acupuncture and physiotherapy have in the management of patients with Bell’s palsy”.6 Here we update our conclusions in the light of recently published evidence.

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