Angelina Jolie's new diagnosis: What to know about Bell's palsy

Bell’s palsy is a rare and often mysterious neurologic condition.

Here's what you need to know about the rare neurologic disease.

What is Bell’s palsy?

Bell’s palsy is a condition that leads to paralysis of the facial nerve, the peripheral nerve responsible for facial movement. Sufferers develop one-sided facial weakness -- generally over a matter of hours or days -- that can result in eyebrow sagging, inability to close the eye and drooping at the corner of the mouth. Other symptoms may include sensitivity to loud noise, ear pain on the side of paralysis and an impaired sense of taste. Because of the physical abnormalities the condition causes, many affected people experience significant psychological distress and restrict their social activities. The condition is relatively rare, affecting only about 40,000 Americans each year.

Are certain people at higher risk?

What causes Bell’s palsy?

What’s the most common treatment?

Other therapies such as facial massage or acupuncture may provide improvement with facial nerve function and pain, albeit to a small degree.

On rare occasions, surgery may be needed to help relieve symptoms.

Devika Umashanker, M.D., is a recent graduate of the Obesity Medicine fellowship at Weill-Cornell Medical College. Nicole Van Groningen, M.D., is a hospital medicine fellow at the University of California, San Francisco.