Steroids Still Recommended for Bell’s Palsy

Bell's Palsy guideline review confirms steroids treatment for facial paralysis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Having a sudden weakness or paralysis of the face can be troubling. Up to 15 percent of those with Bell's palsy do not recover full facial functionality, but treating the condition early with steroids can help increase their chances.

A recent study reviews the current guidelines for the use of steroids and antiviral agents to treat Bell’s palsy, a nerve disorder that affects muscle movement in the face.

This study found for new onset patients, steroids are highly likely to be effective in the recovery of facial nerve functioning. A combination of antivirals and steroids may boost this recovery by a modest amount.

"Steroid treatments work - ask your doctor."

Gary S Gronseth, MD FAAN and Remia Paduga, MD of the Department of Neurology at the University of Kansas Medical Center searched existing medical databases for articles published between June 2000 and January 2012 related to Bell’s palsy.

Nine relevant studies were identified. All were controlled trials where facial function of patients treated with antivirals and steroids were compared to those who were not given the medicines.

The study found a higher probability of complete recovery in new onset patients on steroids. The study authors were unable to conclude antivirals provided more than a modest amount of recovery.

The authors suggest doctors offer steroids to all Bell’s palsy patients. The patients should also be informed that adding antivirals may or may not aid their recovery.

The study authors also believe that not all patients with Bell’s palsy need to be on steroids. Steroid use comes with a higher risk for those who are obese, have uncontrolled diabetes or intolerance to the treatment.

Ongoing research is not likely to change the outcome of steroid use in Bell’s palsy patients, but could determine the proper dose and timing, benefits of other therapies and effect of the medication in specific populations like children.

The article was published in Neurology, the online medical journey of the American Academy of Neurology.

Dr. Gronseth has associations with Neurology Now, Boehringer Ingelheim and the American Academy of Neurology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 8, 2012
Last Updated:
November 13, 2012