Idiopathic facial paralysis

August 2017


Facial paralysis results in a partial or total loss of the motor capabilities of the face. This phenomenon is related to a facial nerve that activates the motor muscles of the face. There are two types of facial paralysis: peripheral paralysis and central palsy, according to the location of the nerve damage. Central facial palsy is caused by brain damage, such as a stroke, trauma or a brain tumor. As for peripheral paralysis, it may be secondary to infection, an inflammatory disease such as multiple sclerosis, trauma, compression of a nerve by a tumor, or other causes. In some cases, no cause is found: we speak of idiopathic facial paralysis or frigore, whose recovery is usually spontaneous in a few weeks.


The symptoms of idiopathic facial paralysis are:
  • the absence of or reduced movement on the affected side of the face;
  • the entire half of the face is affected proportionally (this is not the case in facial paralysis of central origin, where the lower half of the face is mainly affected);
  • the corner of the mouth lowered;
  • an inability to inflate the cheeks or whistle;
  • a reduction in the amount of saliva produced as well as that of tears;
  • difficulty speaking;
  • disorders of mastication.

These disorders appear quickly, reaching their climax generally in a few seconds or minutes, which causes great distress to the patient.


The diagnosis of idiopathic facial paralysis is easy enough to make in light of clinical signs and symptoms presented by the patient. The distinction between paralysis of central and peripheral origin is more subtle: for idiopathic facial paralysis, and moreover peripheral, a test is used to visualize the proportionality of the face: the patient is not able to completely close the lid on the affected side, leaving part of the white of the eye visible. The full neurological examination will show no other signs. In this case, no further investigation is necessary. Nevertheless, an MRI is sometimes performed.


Idiopathic facial paralysis cannot be cured. It disappears by itself in a few weeks, leaving no traces.


Idiopathic facial paralysis has no known cause and therefore cannot be prevented at present. However, when affected, it is important to prevent eye complications due to the impossibility of complete occlusion. To do this, you must use a suitable dressing and administer artificial tears when necessary as well as other appropriate ophthalmic treatments. This meticulous hygiene must be continued as long as healing is not achieved.


Published by Jeff. Latest update on July 23, 2013 at 11:22 AM by Jeff.
This document, titled "Idiopathic facial paralysis," is available under the Creative Commons license. Any copy, reuse, or modification of the content should be sufficiently credited to CCM Health (