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Facial swelling

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

Considerations

If the facial swelling is mild, it may be hard to detect. To help the health care provider in diagnosing the cause, 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

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.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

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 Office Visit

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

The health care 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 injured your face?
  • Did you have a medical test or surgery recently?
  • What other symptoms do you have? For example: facial pain, sneezing,  difficulty breathinghives or rash, eye redness, fever.

Alternative Names

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

References

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: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 68.

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

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: Elsevier Mosby; 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: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 70.

Update Date: 1/22/2013

Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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