How Bell's Palsy Can Affect Your Eye and Eyelid

Bell’s palsy can affect the eye and eyelid on one side, just as it can the mouth, eyebrow, and other parts of the face. When it does, the sudden paralysis of the facial nerve that controls the muscles around the eye can cause drooping and make it impossible to blink normally or full close the eyelid.

Because of this, Bell's palsy can cause eye pain, dry eye, watery eye, blurred vision, and other issues.

This article discusses Bell's palsy, the ways it can affect your eye and eyelid, and what may help your symptoms.

A healthcare provider examine the eye of a patient using an autorefractometer

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Eye-Related Symptoms of Bell's Palsy

Because an eyelid affected by Bell's palsy is unable to close 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 in contact with the air around you.

When you have dry eye, your tear glands may compensate by producing too many tears. This is why people with Bell's palsy can have watery eyes.

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 the way during sleep.

If you think you're experiencing symptoms of Bell's palsy, see a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

People who experience Bell’s palsy often head to the emergency room because they think they're having a stroke. Bell's palsy and stroke can both cause one side of the face to droop.

Protecting Your Eyes

If you do experience a case of Bell's palsy, the following tips may help protect your eyes:

  • Use lubricating artificial tears at least once per hour to keep your eyes moist.
  • If regular artificial tears don't bring relief, use a thicker artificial tear or gel several times per day.
  • Use 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.


Bell's palsy is a condition that affects the muscles in one side of your face. It can cause your eyelid to droop and prevent it from properly blinking or closing. This can cause symptoms like dry eye, watery eye, or pain in the eye.

If you experience any of these symptoms, see a healthcare provider right away. While you recover, use artificial tears or gel to keep your eye moist. You may also want to gently tape your eye shut with medical tape to help keep it from drying out.

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.