Facial Paralysis & Reanimation: FAQs

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These facial paralysis FAQs answer your questions about treatment, Bell's palsy, synkinesis, and more.

Can an injured facial nerve be repaired ?

Yes. Depending on where the nerve is injured, we can use surgery, like nerve grafts, to reconnect healthy nerves to muscles. We can also move nerves in your head to bring movement back to affected parts of your face.

The sooner we repair the nerve, the better the outcome.

I’ve had facial paralysis for a long time. Am I still a candidate for treatment?

Yes. Treatment options depend on the type of facial paralysis you have and how long you've been affected. We may still be able to improve your facial function and symmetry. 

What can I do if my facial paralysis hasn’t recovered completely?

You still have many treatment options for your facial paralysis. Even with partial paralysis or incomplete recovery, we can personalize treatment to your specific needs and wants. A UVA Health facial paralysis expert can discuss which options would be best for you.

How does Botox® help with facial paralysis?

Some people develop tightness or twitching in certain parts of their face as they recover. Botox® and other injections relax your facial muscle. This reduces spasming or twitching and helps your face move more naturally.

My child was born with facial paralysis. How early can it be treated?

Facial paralysis at birth can have many causes. We can evaluate your child's face soon after birth. At UVA, our specialists are trained in microscopic surgery procedures, like muscle grafts, that can give your child their smile back.

Does Bell’s palsy cause all facial paralysis?

No. Causes of facial paralysis include:

  • Injury
  • Stroke
  • Cancer or tumors
  • Infections

Bell’s palsy describes facial paralysis that doesn't have a clear cause. It's usually related to swelling around the facial nerves.

Is Ramsay-Hunt syndrome the same as Bell’s palsy?

No. Like Bell's palsy, Ramsay-Hunt syndrome comes on quickly, and you usually recover. But it can be more severe than Bell’s palsy. It can also cause a rash to develop around the ear or face.

The same virus that causes chickenpox and shingles causes Ramsay-Hunt syndrome. 

Is there treatment for Bell’s palsy?

Yes. Even though we don’t know the exact cause of Bell’s palsy, we can treat you with:

  • Corticosteroids (to reduce swelling around the nerve)
  • Anti-viral medication

Does all Bell’s palsy get better?

Yes, to a degree. Your face usually improves once we control swelling. The sooner we start treatment, the more likely you'll fully recover.

Recovery can be slow. It can take up to one year. Even with treatment, some people don’t fully recover. If you don’t see improvement 6-12 months after your paralysis started, make an appointment to see a specialist.

What is synkinesis?

Synkinesis is involuntary twitching or movement that happens when you’re trying to move a completely different part of your face. This occurs when the nerve is injured but not cut through. 

Is there treatment for synkinesis?

Yes. We can offer several options for reducing twitching and help your face move better. Treatment options include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Botox® injections
  • Selective neurectomy, muscle transfer, or other surgery

We can reduce your symptoms. But once you have synkinesis, it doesn't fully go away.