How Bell's Palsy Can Affect Your Eyes

Bell’s palsy is an acute paralysis of the facial nerve that controls the muscles of the forehead, eyelid, face, and neck.

People who experience Bell’s palsy often head to the emergency room because they think they're having a stroke. The condition normally affects only one side of the face. People who suffer from Bell’s palsy may complain of a facial droop and pain or discomfort, and often notice symptoms in their eyes.

Woman with eye pain
Eric Audras / Getty Images

Eye-Related Symptoms

Bell’s palsy can affect the muscles around the eye and the eyelid, sometimes preventing the eye from blinking properly. Because the eye is unable to blink normally, not enough tears are spread across the eye to keep it moist. The cornea becomes dehydrated and dry spots begin to form. The eye may become extremely dry and inflamed, often leading to exposure keratitis, a condition caused by the cornea constantly being exposed to the atmosphere.

Although most cases of Bell’s palsy last less than a month, the eye-related symptoms can be quite disruptive. You may experience sharp pains in your eye and blurred vision. Because the eyelid does not function correctly, your eye may not shut all of the way during sleep.

Eye Tips

If you think that you're experiencing symptoms of Bell's palsy, you should see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. If you do experience a case of Bell's palsy, the following tips may help protect your eyes:

  • Instill lubricating artificial tears at least once per hour to keep your eyes moist.
  • If regular artificial tears don't bring relief, instill a thicker artificial tear or gel several times per day.
  • Instill an over-the-counter eye ointment inside the lower eyelid at night to protect your eye if it does not shut all the way.
  • Gently tape your eye shut with medical tape, or wear an eye patch to prevent air conditioning or ceiling fans from drying out your eye.

A Word from Verywell

Consult an optometrist, ophthalmologist or other healthcare provider during an episode of Bell's palsy, as exposure keratitis can create significant problems that require treatment. If the episode lasts longer than four to five weeks, your healthcare provider may suggest applying a weight to your eyelid. An eyelid weight works with gravity to assist your eyelid with blinking to prevent drying.

Although healthcare providers are not all in agreement, the treatment of choice seems to be a course of oral anti-viral medication along with a short course of oral steroids. To be effective, these medications must be taken as soon as possible after diagnosis of a Bell's palsy episode.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Zaki V. A non-surgical approach to the management of exposure keratitis due to facial palsy by using mini-scleral lenses. Medicine (Baltimore). 2017;96(22):e7118. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000006020

  2. Alptekin DÖ. Acupuncture and kinesio taping for the acute management of Bell's palsy: a case report. Complement Ther Med. 2017;35:1-5. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2017.08.013

  3. American Academy of Neurology. Bell’s palsy: treatment with steroids and antiviral drugs. 2012.

By Troy Bedinghaus, OD
Troy L. Bedinghaus, OD, board-certified optometric physician, owns Lakewood Family Eye Care in Florida. He is an active member of the American Optometric Association.