Facial Swelling

Face swelling, also called facial edema, 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.

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 cats. Facial swelling that develops over time and occurs along with additional symptoms may be a sign of an infection, such as cellulitis.

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 emergency care or help.

What can I feel with facial 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.

  • 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

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 (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these associated 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

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, that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting.

Infectious causes of face swelling:

  • Facial swelling can be due to a variety of infections including:
  • 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
  • Stye (also called a hordeolum, infected oil gland of the eyelid)
  • Tooth abscess
  • Allergic causes of face swelling

Facial swelling can be due to mild to serious allergic reactions, such as:

  • Insect bite allergy, such as from a bee sting
  • Hay fever or allergic reaction from animal dander, dust, cosmetics, or pollen
  • Drug allergy, such as to penicillin or codeine
  • Anaphylactic allergic reaction to any substance
  • Traumatic causes of face swelling

Facial swelling can arise from injury or trauma, such as:

  • Facial burn or other trauma
  • Surgery on the face
  • Oral surgery
  • Other causes of face swelling
  • Facial swelling can be due to various other conditions including:
  • Blood transfusion reaction
  • Cancer of the face
  • Fluid retention, such as during pregnancy
    • Hereditary angioedema
    • Obesity
    • Organ failure, such as heart, liver or kidney failure
    • Pre-eclampsia (a serious condition marked by swelling, high blood pressure, and protein in the urine that can develop during pregnancy)
    • Severe malnutrition