If you turn to Dr. Google for answers about your swollen face, you may read that the cause could be either a moisturizer that doesn’t jibe with your skin or a serious, life threatening condition.
Before you panic, educate yourself on what can cause your face to swell! A swollen face can mean trouble if you ignore it.
Why is my face swollen?
If you’re dealing with a puffy mug, it’s best to consult a doctor to be safe. If you’re experiencing symptoms like trouble breathing, a low pulse rate, or slurred speech in addition to a swollen face, call 911.
Some possible reasons for a swollen face are:
- Allergic conjunctivitis
- Broken nose
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Medication allergy
- Abscess or tooth infection
- Superior vena cava syndrome
If your face is all puffed up, here are some possible reasons.
1. Allergic conjunctivitis
If your eyelids are red and swollen, you might be allergic to that cat you risked cuddling with or that hidden mold in your bathtub.
Allergic conjunctivitis (a type of pink eye) is eye inflammation caused by an allergic reaction to a substance like:
- pet dander
- mold spores
If you have it, you might experience:
- eye redness
- eye swelling
- itchiness or burning
- sneezing or a runny, itchy nose
Allergic conjunctivitis treatment
If it persists after a day or two, head to the eye doctor. Treatments for allergic conjunctivitis include:
- cold compresses on the affected area
- steroid eye drops
🚨 Time to hop off Google and call 911: Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. 🚨
You might be having this potentially life threatening reaction to an allergen (such as a food, a medication, or a bug bite or sting) if you experience some or all of the following:
- low blood pressure
- difficulty breathing
- slurred speech
- fainting or loss of consciousness
- nausea or vomiting
- diarrhea or abdominal pain
- rapid heart rate
- rapid onset of symptoms
Symptoms tend to appear quickly and may escalate even more quickly, so it’s vital to seek emergency care ASAP. Medical professionals might treat the issue with:
- epinephrine (aka adrenaline)
- supplemental oxygen
- intravenous antihistamines
- a beta-agent like albuterol
If you or the person experiencing the attack has an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen), use it as the package directs ASAP.
If someone has had anaphylaxis before, they have a higher risk of future reactions and should always carry an EpiPen as a precaution.
Angioedema is a type of allergic reaction that causes swelling that goes down deep within the skin. Common triggers include food, insect bites or stings, and medications.
Mild episodes of angioedema don’t always need treatment — but you should always avoid any known allergens to be as safe as possible.
If you have moderate to severe symptoms, contact a doctor. Possible treatments include:
- applying a cold compress to the affected area
- wearing loose, comfy clothing
- epinephrine (or an EpiPen)
4. Broken nose
It’s no secret that a swift blow to the face can break your nose.
On top of breaking or cracking the bone or cartilage, the trauma can also cause symptoms like:
- swelling and bruising around your nose and eyes
- a crooked nose
- a grating sound when you rub your nose
Broken nose treatment
If you’ve broken your nose, get medical attention ASAP. Treatment may include:
- pain relievers
- cold compresses
Cellulitis is a serious infection that may require urgent care. It happens when bacteria or fungi enter through a crack or cut in your skin and may cause:
- redness, pain, and swelling
- warmth and tenderness
- red streaking from the rash
- fever or chills
Because cellulitis can be life threatening without eventual treatment, contact a doctor if you think you have it. Red streaking and fever or chills accompanied by other symptoms may indicate a particularly serious infection.
To treat the condition, your doctor may:
- prescribe antibiotics
- prescribe pain relievers
- advise you to rest up
6. Cushing’s syndrome
Cushing’s syndrome is a disorder that happens when your body makes too much of the hormone cortisol (aka the stress hormone). If you have Cushing’s syndrome, you might have:
- a face that appears swollen and round
- skin that bruises easily
- particularly thick or excessive body hair
Taking glucocorticoids in high doses commonly causes Cushing’s syndrome. Some tumors can also cause your body to overproduce cortisol.
Cushing’s syndrome treatment
If you think you might have Cushing’s syndrome, contact a doctor. Treatment depends on the underlying cause and may include:
- cortisol-reducing medication
7. Medication allergy
You took some medicine in the hope of treating another condition — and suddenly you’re having an allergic reaction.
🚨 PSA: Any reaction to medication or drugs is considered a medical emergency and may require urgent care. If you’re experiencing symptoms like trouble breathing, a low pulse rate, or slurred speech in addition to face swelling, call 911. 🚨
Medications that may cause allergic reactions include:
- antibiotics like penicillin
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen
- chemotherapy drugs
Symptoms may start within days or weeks after taking a medication and may include:
- itchy, red rash
- racing heart
- swelling and itching
- difficulty breathing
- upset stomach
- small purple or red dots on your skin
Medication allergy treatment
Always contact a doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of a medication allergy. A severe response to medication could be a sign of anaphylaxis.
As in the case of other allergic reactions, a doctor may treat the condition with antihistamines or epinephrine.
Pro tip: If you have a known drug allergy, always let your doctor, dentist, pharmacist, and other relevant people know. You might also need to wear a medical bracelet to let others know of your allergy in case of an emergency.
Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid is underactive. This means your thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones to regulate your body’s energy expenditure.
Possible symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- puffy, swollen face
- frequent cold feeling
- high cholesterol
- muscle weakness
- painful or stiff joints
- slow heart rate
- weight gain
- hair loss
- fertility problems
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, visit a doc for a diagnosis.
There’s currently no cure for hypothyroidism, but medications and lifestyle changes like the following may help you manage it:
- thyroid medication (typically hormone replacement tablets aka Levothyroxine)
- a healthy diet
- reduced sugar or gluten intake
- vitamin B, selenium, or probiotic supplements
- stress reduction practices like yoga or meditation
Preeclampsia happens when a pregnant person has high blood pressure, protein in their pee, and swelling. This typically occurs at least 20 weeks into pregnancy but may also happen earlier or even after the baby is born.
Preeclampsia is considered a medical emergency that may require urgent care.
- swelling of the face, legs, feet, or hands
- vision changes
- upper abdominal pain
- pain below the sternum
- shortness of breath
If you’re pregnant and think you have symptoms of preeclampsia, call your doc right away.
Treating the issue typically involves delivering the baby early. Your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits based on the severity of your symptoms and the stage of pregnancy you’re in.
Without treatment, it can lead to issues like:
- dangerously high blood pressure
- kidney damage
- liver damage
- fluid in the lungs
- blood clots
If your nasal passages feel more jammed up than rush hour traffic, you might have sinusitis. This infection can happen due to viruses, bacteria, or allergies.
Symptoms may vary in intensity and duration, depending on the cause. They might include:
- face swelling
- decreased sense of smell
- stuffy nose
- sore throat
- runny nose
If you think you have a sinus infection, contact a doctor. If you do have one, they might recommend some or all of the following:
- allergy medications
- nasal corticosteroids like Flonase
- over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like ibuprofen
11. Abscess or tooth infection
If your jawline is suddenly swollen, it could be due to a tooth infection or abscess. These conditions happen due to trauma or tooth decay and may cause:
- swelling of your face or jaw
- pain or tenderness
- tooth sensitivity to hot or cold temps
- sensitivity when chewing or biting
- swollen lymph nodes in your jaw
Abscess or tooth infection
If you think you might have an abscessed tooth or infection, head to a dentist for a diagnosis and treatment.
Treatment may include:
- root canal
- OTC pain relievers
- saltwater mouth rinses
12. Superior vena cava syndrome
Superior vena cava (SVC) syndrome is named after the SVC, the big vein that transports blood from your head, neck, and chest to your heart.
This vein may become blocked as a result of issues like:
- a tumor
- an enlarged thyroid
- a blood clot
SVC syndrome is serious and may cause symptoms like:
- face or neck swelling
- face or neck discoloration
- shortness of breath
- difficulty swallowing
SVC syndrome treatment
If you think you might have SVC syndrome, seek emergency care. In some cases, it may be life threatening without treatment. Depending on the cause of the blockage, it may be treated with:
- radiation therapy
- blood thinners
Actinomycosis is a rare, long-term bacterial infection. It sometimes happens due to dental infections or trauma to the face or mouth, which can cause bacteria to infect the face or intestines.
Possible symptoms include:
- reddish or bluish areas of skin
- sores or abscesses
- chest pain
- lumps on your face
- skin sores
- weight loss
If you think you might have actinomycosis, contact a doctor. The condition is typically treated with antibiotics.
Styes are bumps that typically happen as a result of bacteria buildup or blockages in your eye’s oil glands, which can cause a reaction on your eyelid.
Symptoms may include:
- a red or skin-colored bump on the edge of your eyelid
- swollen eyelids
- red, watery eyes
- a gritty sensation in your eye
- light sensitivity
Most styes are harmless and will go away without treatment. But since they could possibly indicate something more serious, it’s still not a bad idea to head to a doc.
Treating the stye itself may involve:
- applying a warm compress (some folks also swear by a chamomile tea bag)
- cleaning your eyelid with mild soap and water
- OTC pain meds
- antibiotic ointments or eye drops
Still not sure what the deal is with your swollen face? These photos might help.
Trick question — the answer is always yes.
Since a lot of reactions have overlapping symptoms, it can be tricky to know just how serious your swollen face is. In general, it’s better to seek medical care ASAP in case of emergency, especially if you have allergies or are pregnant.
If you or someone you know experiences symptoms of anaphylaxis, call 911 right away and use an EpiPen if you have one.
Most face swelling sitches require a visit to the doc or even emergency care. In some cases, though, a little at-home TLC might do the trick or help ease swelling after a doctor visit.
If you’re not sure, a quick call or online visit with a doctor might help you determine if you can safely stay home.
In the event of a non-emergency or after you’ve had an initial medical visit, at-home remedies like the following might help relieve pain and discomfort:
- OTC hydrocortisone cream
- OTC antihistamines
- OTC pain relievers
- warm or cool compresses
Always contact a doctor if you have face swelling that lasts more than a few days.
Sure, you’ve heard it over and over, but prevention really *is* the best medicine. Doing the following can help you avoid probs before they start:
- Avoid any known allergens like foods and medications. (Pro tip: Head to an allergist to get tested.)
- Inform your doctor of any known allergies you have.
- Read ingredient labels thoroughly.
- If you have food allergies, ask your server about ingredients in restaurants. (Pro tip: If they’re not sure, don’t risk it!)
- If you have an EpiPen, carry it with you everywhere.
- Do a patch test before applying new skin care products.
- Practice A+ oral hygiene to reduce the risk of tooth infections.
- To boost your immunity, try to eat a healthy diet and manage your stress levels.
There are lots of potential face swelling causes, including allergic reaction, injury, and infection. While some cases are mild and may go away on their own, others can be very serious and might require emergency care.
Consult a doctor if you have face swelling, especially if it lasts for more than a few days.
Call 911 if you have trouble breathing, a low pulse rate, dizziness, or slurred speech in addition to a swollen face.