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Facial Swelling

What is face swelling?

Face swelling is the enlargement or distention of the face due to fluid buildup or inflammation in the facial tissues. Swelling can occur anywhere on the face, but it is most noticeable on the lips, cheeks and eyelids. Swelling can also extend to the neck region. Facial swelling may also be referred to as facial edema.

A variety of mild to serious disorders, diseases and conditions can lead to face swelling. Swelling can result from infections, inflammation, trauma and malignancy (cancer).

Depending on the cause, facial swelling can last for a short time, such as when you develop swollen eyelids during an allergic reaction to animal dander. Facial swelling that develops over time and occurs along with additional symptoms may be a sign of an infection, such as dental abscess.

Because facial swelling and swelling in general may be a sign of a serious condition, you should talk with your medical professional about your symptoms. If you experience facial swelling accompanied by difficulty breathing, hives, intense distress, fever, redness, or warmth, seek immediate medical care

What other symptoms might occur with face swelling?

Face swelling may occur with other symptoms depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, swelling over the cheeks and eyes can be a sign of sinusitis that is often accompanied by pain and congestion.

Symptoms that may occur along with face swelling

Face swelling may occur with other symptoms including:

  • Eye pain or redness
  • Facial pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Skin sores or pus-filled bumps
  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Pain while chewing or swallowing
  • Painful swelling near one or both ears

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition.

In some cases, face swelling can indicate a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms:

  • Coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Face swelling after head trauma
  • Feeling like your throat is tight
  • Fever with red and tender areas
  • General edema (swelling)
  • Hives or rash
  • Intense distress
  • Itching in the throat or mouth
  • Pale or bluish coloration (cyanosis)
  • Protruding or bulging eye or eyes (proptosis) with redness, fever and pain
  • Sudden or severe swelling

What causes face swelling?

Face swelling can be caused by inflammation, allergies, trauma or infection in the tissues of the face. Facial swelling can be due to relatively mild conditions, such as a sinus infection, or a serious or life-threatening condition, such as analphylactic shock submandibular abcess  that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting.

Severe submandibular abcess

Infectious causes of face swelling

Facial swelling can be due to a variety of infections including:

  • Tooth infection (pulpitis) or abscess
  • Bacterial or viral conjunctivitis (noticeable swelling around the eyes)
  • Cellulitis (skin infection)
  • Mumps
  • Orbital cellulitis (acute infection of the area surrounding the eye)
  • Sinus infection or sinusitis

Teeth infection can contribute by:

  1. Decay (caries) reaching the dental pulp (pulpitis).
  2. Periapical abscess of non vital teeth (trauma, cracks or decay under fillings).
  3. Periapical and periodontal(gum) abscess.
  4. Erupting teeth (especially partially impacted lower third molars).
  5. Retained roots above or below gingival.

Jaw infection can cause by:

  1. Cysts or tumours
  2. Osteomyelitis
  3. Osteoradionecrosis
  4. Most jaw fractures in the tooth bearing segments
  5.  Infected tooth extraction sites

Questions for diagnosing the cause of face swelling

To diagnose the underlying cause of face swelling, your doctor or dentist will ask you several questions related to your symptoms. You can best help your health care practitioner in diagnosing the underlying cause of face swelling by providing complete answers to these questions:

  • What is the exact location of the swelling?
  • Describe the swelling. When did the swelling start? Does it come and go or is it constant?
  • Did you eat any foods or come in contact with any unusual substances preceding the swelling?
  • Are you are experiencing any dental pain, shortness of breath, or other symptoms?
  • Provide your full medical history, including all medical conditions, surgeries and treatments, family history, and a complete list of the medications and dietary supplements that you take.

What is the treatment for facial infection?

  • Antibiotic
  • Surgery – Incision and drainage
  • Removal of the cause of infection

    Below is shown the surgical procedure of Incision and Drainage (I&D) under local anaesthesia:

Draining of the abcess

Extraoral drain in place

Home Care.

  • Apply cold compresses to reduce swelling from an injury.
  • Raise the head of the bed (or use extra pillows) to help reduce facial swelling.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

You should call your health care provider if you have:

  • Sudden, painful, or severe facial swelling
  • Facial swelling that lasts a while, particularly if it is getting worse over time
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever, tenderness, or redness, which suggests infection

Alternative Names

Puffy face; Swelling of the face; Moon face; Facial edema

Last Reviewed : 20 April 2012
Writer : Dr. Mukhriz b. Hamdan