Bell’s Palsy vs. Stroke

What Is Bell’s Palsy?

Stroke happens when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts. Bell's Palsy is facial paralysis that can be caused by a number of factors.
Stroke happens when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts. Bell's Palsy is facial paralysis that can be caused by a number of factors.

Bell's palsy (also called idiopathic facial palsy) is a condition in which patients experience temporary facial paralysis or weakness on one side of the face when the nerve that controls the muscles of the face fails to work properly or becomes injured.

Bell's palsy is the most common cause of facial paralysis.

What Is Stroke?

Stroke occurs when a part of the brain is damaged because a blood vessel in the brain is blocked, leaks, or bursts. When blood and oxygen do not reach parts of the brain, that part is damaged and does not function properly. The effects of a stroke depend on which part of the brain is impacted, how much of the brain is affected, and how promptly treatment occurs. 

Types of strokes include:

What Are Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy and Stroke That Are Similar?

Symptoms of Bell’s palsy and stroke both come on rapidly, with stroke symptoms being much more sudden. Symptoms of Bell’s palsy and stroke that are similar include: 

  • Sudden weakness of one side of the face
  • Drooping of the mouth or lower part of the face
  • Drooling
  • Inability to close eye (this results in eye dryness)
  • Excessive tearing in one eye
  • Facial pain or abnormal sensation
  • Altered taste/loss of sense of taste on the front of the tongue
  • Distorted facial appearance
  • Eyebrow sagging

Stroke is a medical emergency. If you or someone you know has any signs of a stroke, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital’s emergency department immediately. 

What Are Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy and Stroke That Are Different?

Symptoms of Bell’s palsy that are different from stroke include:

  • Intolerance to loud noise
  • Tinnitus
  • Usually only affects the face
  • Does not affect vision
  • Symptoms of Bell’s palsy may result in distress and social withdrawal 

Symptoms of stroke that are different from Bell’s palsy include:

  • Numbness or weakness in the arm, or leg, usually only on one side of the body
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • Problems walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause

Stroke is a medical emergency. If you or someone you know has any signs of a stroke, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital’s emergency department immediately. The American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association suggest the word "FAST" as an easy way to remember signs of a stroke. Each letter in the word stands for important signs to look for and what to do about it:

  • Face: Does the person's face look uneven or droop on one side?
  • Arm: Does the person have weakness or numbness in one or both arms? Does one arm drift down if the person tries to hold both arms out?
  • Speech: Is the person having trouble speaking? Does his or her speech sound strange?
  • Time: If you notice any of these stroke signs, call for an ambulance (in the U.S. and Canada, dial 9-1-1) and get to a hospital immediately. You need to act FAST. The sooner treatment begins, the better the chances of recovery. 

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References
Medscape Medical Reference