Richard Powell1 had described patients with peripheral facial palsy in 1813, but the separate function of the seventh and the fifth cranial nerves was not appreciated until 1821, when Sir Charles Bell published his classic observations on the "respiratory nerve of the face." Knowledge of the etiology of the facial palsy which has come to bear Sir Charles' name has scarcely advanced in the last 150 years. Bell's palsy must still be listed among the maladies for which sophisticated physicians seriously regard ill winds as a possible cause. Rather than implicating winds, drafts, and chills, however, it is better to express our ignorance of etiology by using the term "idiopathic" when discussing the cause of Bell's palsy. A peripheral facial palsy may result from a number of conditions, eg, tumors, trauma, infections, and demyelinating disease, but the majority of cases fall into the idiopathic category.
It is the
ALTER M. Familial Aggregation of Bell's Palsy. Arch Neurol. 1963;8(5):557–564. doi:10.1001/archneur.1963.00460050107012