Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

May 16, 2017
1 min read

Higher incidence of Bell’s palsy attributed to increase in herpes zoster infection

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BALTIMORE — A higher incidence of Bell’s palsy in recent years may be attributed to increasing rates of herpes zoster infection, according to research presented at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology annual meeting.

“We wanted to see if the incidence of facial nerve palsy has changed over time. The last time there was a study on this was 1968 to 1982,” Sarah Alshami, study author from the Department of Ophthalmology, Mayo Clinic, said in an interview with

Researchers explored the epidemiology and surgical outcomes of facial nerve palsy using the Rochester Epidemiology Project (REP) database, under the direction of Elizabeth A. Bradley, MD, oculoplastic and orbital surgeon at the Mayo Clinic.

In the earlier REP study, the Bell’s palsy incidence rate was 25 per 100,000. In the current years studied, 2000 to 2010, the incidence increased to 39.9 per 100,000.

“We attribute this increase to herpes zoster infection, which has also increased over the last 4 decades and plays a causal role in Bell’s palsy,” Alshami said. “Much of the literature out there says the incidence is 20 to 25, so I think it’s important for everyone to know the incidence has increased to 39.9.”

Only 11 of 619 patients (1.7%) required surgery for facial nerve palsy, the researchers reported. – by Abigail Sutton


Alshami S, et al. The epidemiology and surgical outcome of facial nerve palsy in a population-based cohort. Presented at: Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology annual meeting; May 7-11, 2017; Baltimore.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.