Facial swelling

Definition

Facial swelling is the build-up of fluid in the tissues of the face. Swelling may also affect the neck and upper arms.

Alternative Names

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

Considerations

If the facial swelling is mild, it may be hard to detect. To assist the health care provider in diagnosing the cause, it is important to note the following:

  • Pain, and where it hurts
  • How long the swelling has lasted
  • What makes it better or worse
  • If you have other symptoms

Common Causes

  • Allergic reaction (such as allergic rhinitis, hay fever, or a bee sting)
  • Angioedema
  • Blood transfusion reaction
  • Cellulitis
  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye)
  • Drug reactions, including those due to aspirin, penicillin, sulfa, glucocorticoids, and others
  • Head, nose, or jaw surgery
  • Injury or trauma to the face (such as a burn)
  • Malnutrition (when severe)
  • Obesity
  • Salivary gland disorders
  • Sinusitis
  • Stye with swelling around the infected eye
  • Tooth abscess

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.

Call your health care provider if

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

What to expect at your health care provider's office

Emergency treatment is needed if facial swelling is caused by burns or if you have breathing problems.

The health care team will ask questions about your medical and personal history to determine treatment or if any medical tests are needed. Questions may include:

  • How long has the facial swelling lasted?
  • When did it begin?
  • What makes it worse?
  • What makes it better?
  • Have you come into contact with something you might be allergic to?
  • What medications are you taking?
  • Have you recently injured your face?
  • Have you had a recent medical test or surgery?
  • What other symptoms do you have? For example:
    • Facial pain
    • Sneezing
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Hives or rash
    • Eye redness
    • Fever

References

Habif TP. Urticaria and angioedema. In: Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 6.

Amsterdam JT. Oral medicine. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 68.

Sharma R, Brunette DD. Ophthalmology. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 69.

Pfaff JA, Moore GP. Otolaryngology. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 70.