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What Causes Facial Swelling?

Facial Swelling can be caused due to a variety of causes ranging from common infections to something as serious as an anaphylactic reaction. Facial swelling can also be caused due to trauma such as a blow to the face while boxing or as a result of domestic violence. Normally, Facial Swelling is a benign condition and requires no aggressive treatments. A consultation with a physician is recommended if swelling on the face persists for more than a week or if there are associated symptoms like erythema, itching, and severe pain. This will be required to identify the underlying cause and formulate a treatment plan. [1]

Emergency treatment is required in case if the patient displays symptoms suggestive of anaphylaxis. An individual should also go to the emergency room if he or she comes in contact with a poisonous insect. Anaphylaxis occurs when individual has a severe allergic reaction which at times can be fatal. [1]

People who are at risk for an anaphylactic reaction should always carry an autoinjector to calm down the symptoms till the time the patient can reach the emergency room for treatment. This article gives an overview of some of the causes for Facial Swelling and whether they can be prevented. [1]

What Causes Facial Swelling?

What Causes Facial Swelling?

Some of the causes for Facial Swelling include:

Actinomycosis: This is a bacterial infection which causes swelling in the soft tissues of the body including the face. It may also affect the throat, nose, and the stomach. Aside from Facial Swelling an individual with Actinomycosis will experience frequent bouts of coughing, chest pain, facial lumps or bumps, skin ulceration, fever, and unintentional weight loss. [1]

High-dose antibiotics are the frontline treatment for Actinomycosis. Penicillin is the most preferred antibiotic for this condition, although other forms of antibiotics sometimes are equally effective. This is especially required as many people are allergic to penicillin. It usually takes prolonged period of time up to the tune of a few months for the infection to clear up. [1]

Allergic Conjunctivitis: This is yet another cause for Facial Swelling. This condition is commonly caused due to an allergic reaction resulting in inflammation of the eyes. Dust, pet dander, molds, and pollen are some of the common triggers that may cause allergic conjunctivitis. The affected individual will experience facial swelling especially around the eyes along with redness and watering of the eyes. Avoiding triggers is the best way to prevent allergic conjunctivitis with resultant facial swelling. [1]

Additionally, cold compresses can also be applied to the affected eye to calm down the inflammation. Antihistamines and steroid eyedrops are sometimes given if the symptoms do not alleviate with standard measures. [1]

Anaphylaxis: This is a rare but the most serious cause of Facial Swelling. Anaphylaxis is an emergent medical condition and if left untreated proves to be fatal for the affected individual. The symptom onset is typically immediate and worsens in no time. An individual with an anaphylactic reaction will have severe shortness of breath, Facial Swelling, hives, diarrhea, and loss of consciousness. There will also be sudden drop in blood pressure observed during an anaphylactic reaction. [1]

Epinephrine autoinjector is the best way to treat the symptoms of anaphylaxis till the time help arrives. If an individual develops an anaphylactic reaction for the first time, can have recurrent reactions and thus should always carry an autoinjector for use whenever required. [1]

Angioedema: This is another cause for Facial Swelling. It is caused when there is swelling within the deeper layers of the skin. It is usually cause by an allergic reaction due to medication, food, or an insect bite. The Facial Swelling caused by angioedema is quite prominent and is accompanied by hives, rash, and itching. [1]

Angioedema is a benign condition and in majority of the cases does not require any treatment. However, avoidance of triggers is recommended to prevent future episodes of this condition. In severe cases, antihistamines are quite effective in treating angioedema. [1]

Nasal Fractures: A broken nose is one of the most common causes of Facial Swelling. This usually happens as a result of a direct blow to the face. This can occur as an act of violence where the face is either hit by the fist or by any other object. Boxers commonly experience broken nose due to injury during a bout. Aside from Facial Swelling, the affected will have a clear nasal deformity. [1]

There will be bleeding from the nose as well. Pain and bruising is also seen in individuals with a nasal fracture. Nasal fracture tends to heal on their own without any treatment. However, if it is accompanied by other facial injuries then a consultation with a physician is recommended for additional treatment options. [1]

In some cases, the nose may have to be splinted to hasten the recovery process after a nasal fracture. If the deformity is significant then the physician may recommend surgery to correct it. [1]

Cellulitis: It is a bacterial skin infection which at times causes Facial Swelling. The area will also feel hot to touch. Cellulitis is a condition which if not treated can cause serious complications. An individual with severe cellulitis will experience fever, chills, and a red rash on the skin surface. Antibiotics are the frontline treatment for cellulitis. Pain medications and adequate rest is also required until the time the infection clears. [1]

Cushing Syndrome: An individual is said to have Cushing Syndrome if there is excess production of cortisol in the body. The excess cortisol is responsible for the individual to have Facial Swelling along with easy bruising. The most common cause of this condition is believed to be taking excess of glucocorticoids. There are also certain medical conditions that may cause the body to produce excess cortisol. [1]

Certain forms of malignancies result in production of excessive cortisol. The treatment for Cushing Syndrome depends on the underlying cause. If a malignant tumor is responsible for this condition then surgery along with radiation and chemotherapy will be required to treat the cancer and normalize the cortisol levels. [1]

Hypothyroidism: This is a condition in which the thyroid gland is not able to produce enough of the thyroid hormone. The function of the thyroid hormones is to aid in various metabolic processes in the body. Having a swollen face is one of the primary presenting features of hypothyroidism. [1]

Additionally, the patient will also have period of constipation along with depression and a dry skin. There will also be excessive weight gain. There is no cure for hypothyroidism but medications are very effective in controlling the symptoms of this condition. [1]

Sinusitis: This is yet another common cause of Facial Swelling. Sinusitis occurs when there is inflammation of the sinuses or the nasal passage. Bacterial and viral infections are the common causes for sinusitis. Additional symptoms of sinusitis include persistent cough, runny nose, fever, headache, and throat pain. [1]

In majority of the cases, sinusitis can be effectively treated by home remedies like applying warm compresses and using steam inhalation to open up the clogged nasal passage and to calm down the inflammation. Over the counter decongestants are also quite effective in controlling the symptoms of sinusitis including facial swelling. Antibiotics may have to be prescribed if a bacterial infection is believed to be the cause of sinusitis. [1]

Tooth Infection: A tooth or a gum infection can also at times cause Facial Swelling. There will also be pain and tenderness around the jawline area. The infection generally clears up with antibiotics. In some cases a root canal procedure may have to be done to remove the damaged and infected part of the gum. The patient will also be given pain medications for pain relief. [1]

Superior Vena Cava Syndrome: This is yet another serious medical condition that causes Facial Swelling. It also at times causes discoloration of the face and neck. An individual is said to have superior vena cava syndrome when this vein gets obstructed. The primary cause of this obstruction is a tumor that compresses this vein. People with lung or a breast cancer often have superior vena cava syndrome. [1]

Swelling of the thyroid gland is also one of the possible causes for superior vena cava syndrome. Aside from facial swelling, other symptoms of this condition include difficulty breathing, dysphagia, cough, dizziness, and persistent headaches. Superior vena cava syndrome is a medical emergency and the affected individual should consult with a physician urgently for prompt treatment. [1]

Facial Swelling is definitely a preventable condition especially if they are caused by allergies. It is recommended for people with known sensitivity to various allergens to avoid exposure to them to prevent Facial Swelling. Facial swelling caused by a tooth infection can be prevented by practicing good dental hygiene and brushing the teeth twice daily. Eating a balanced diet enhances the immune system of the body and prevents infections from settling in thus preventing Facial Swelling. [1]

In conclusion, injuries, allergies, and infections are the primary causes of Facial Swelling. However, there are certain serious medical conditions like superior vena cava syndrome or an anaphylactic reaction that also have Facial Swelling as a symptom. Mild causes of Facial Swelling such as an injury or a blow to the face generally do not require aggressive treatment. However, serious causes of Facial Swelling need to be attended to on an emergent basis to prevent any unwarranted complications. [1]

If an individual has Facial Swelling for more than a week which does not respond to standard treatment approaches, then a physician should be consulted. This is especially if there are other associated symptoms that point towards a serious medical condition. An individual with symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction needs to be taken to the emergency room immediately as if this condition remains untreated it may prove to be fatal for the individual. [1]

Similarly, if an individual has a history of a known malignancy and has Facial Swelling then also more serious causes such as a superior vena cava syndrome should be explored and treated. [1]


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 25, 2022

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