Facial swelling is the buildup of fluid in the tissues of the face. Swelling may also affect the neck and upper arms.
If the facial swelling is mild, it may be hard to detect. Let the health care provider know the following:
- Pain, and where it hurts
- How long the swelling has lasted
- What makes it better or worse
- If you have other symptoms
Causes of facial swelling may include:
- Allergic reaction (allergic rhinitis, hay fever, or a bee sting)
- Blood transfusion reaction
- 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)
- Salivary gland disorders
- Stye with swelling around the infected eye
- Tooth abscess
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
Call your 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 Office Visit
Emergency treatment is needed if facial swelling is caused by burns, or if you have breathing problems.
The provider will ask about your medical and personal history. This helps 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 medicines are you taking?
- Did you recently injure your face?
- Did you have a medical test or surgery recently?
- What other symptoms do you have? For example: facial pain, sneezing, difficulty breathing, hives or rash, eye redness, fever.
Puffy face; Swelling of the face; Moon face; Facial edema
Guluma K, Lee JE. Ophthalmology. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 61.
Habif TP. Urticaria, angioedema and pruritus. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 6.
Pedigo RA, Amsterdam JT. Oral medicine. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 60.
Pfaff JA, Moore GP. Otolaryngology. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 62.
Review Date 2/7/2019
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.