Facial Edema or Swelling of the Face: Symptoms, Causes, Complications, Diagnosis and Treatment

Facial flush due to accumulation of liquids.

Facial edema or swelling of the face is enlargement or distention of the face due to fluid accumulation or inflammation in the facial tissues.

Inflammation can occur anywhere on the face, but it is most noticeable on the lips, cheeks and eyelids. The swelling may also spread to the neck region.

A variety of mild to severe disorders, diseases and conditions can lead to swelling of the face. The swelling can be the result of infections, inflammation, trauma and malignant tumors (cancer).

Depending on the cause, the facial swelling may last for a short time, such as when swelling of the eyelids develops during an allergic reaction to animal dander.

The swelling of the face that develops over time and occurs along with additional symptoms can be a sign of an infection such as sinusitis.

Because facial swelling and inflammation in general can be a sign of a serious illness, you should talk to your doctor about your symptoms.

What symptoms can occur with facial edema?

Swelling of the face can occur with other symptoms depending on the underlying disease disorder or condition.

For example, swelling in the cheeks and eyes may be a sign of sinusitis that is often accompanied by pain and congestion.

Symptoms that may occur along with facial edema are:

  • Eye pain or redness.
  • Facial pain
  • Fatigue.
  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Sores on the skin or lumps filled with pus.
  • Crying eyes.
  • Pain when chewing or swallowing
  • Painful swelling near one or both ears.

Serious symptoms that can indicate a life-threatening condition:

In some cases, swelling of the face may indicate a serious or life-threatening condition that must be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. Seek medical attention immediately if you or someone you are with has any of these life-threatening symptoms:

  • Cough, wheezing or difficulty breathing.
  • Feeling that your throat is tight.
  • Fever with red and tender areas.
  • General edema (swelling).
  • Hives  or rash
  • General intense pain.
  • Itching in the throat or mouth.
  • Pale or bluish coloration ( cyanosis ).
  • Protruding or bulging eyes (proptosis) with redness, fever and pain.
  • Sudden or severe swelling

What causes the swelling of the face?

The swelling of the face can be caused by inflammation, allergies, traumatisms or infections in the tissues of the face.

It can also be due to relatively mild conditions, such as a sinus infection, or a serious or life-threatening illness, such as anaphylactic shock, that should be evaluated immediately in emergency situations.

Infectious Causes

  • The conjunctivitis bacterial or viral (swelling around the eyes).
  • Cellulitis (infection of the skin).
  • Mumps.
  • Orbital cellulitis (acute infection of the area surrounding the eye).
  • Sinus infection or sinusitis
  • Stye (infection of the sebaceous glands of the eyelid).
  • Dental abscess.

Allergic Causes

  • Insect bite allergy, for example, from a bee sting.
  • Hay fever or allergic reaction due to animal dander, dust, cosmetics, or pollen.
  • Allergy to medications, such as penicillin or codeine .
  • Anaphylactic allergic reaction to any substance.

Traumatic causes

  • Facial burn or other trauma
  • The surgery on the face.
  • Oral Surgery

Other causes

  • Reaction to blood transfusion.
  • Cancer of the face.
  • The fluid retention, during pregnancy.
  • Hereditary angioedema.
  • Obesity.
  • Insufficient organs, such as the heart, liver or kidney failure.
  • Pre-eclampsia (a serious illness characterized by inflammation, high blood pressure, and protein in the urine that can develop during pregnancy).
  • Serious malnutrition.

What are the possible complications of facial swelling?

The complications associated with facial swelling can be progressive and vary depending on the underlying cause.

Because facial swelling can be due to serious illnesses, failure to seek treatment can lead to complications and permanent damage. It is important that you visit your doctor when you experience swelling or other unusual symptoms.

Following the diagnosis of the underlying cause, following the treatment plan described by your doctor can reduce the risk of possible complications of these conditions, including:

  • Difficulty breathing or respiratory arrest due to anaphylactic shock .
  • Removal of the skin or other tissue, such as a serious infection or a malignant condition.
  • Propagation of the infection to other parts of the body, including blood.


To diagnose the underlying cause of the swelling of the face, your doctor or licensed health professional will ask you several questions related to your symptoms.

You can better help your health professional diagnose the underlying cause of facial swelling by providing complete answers to these questions:

  • What is the exact location of the swelling?
  • Describe the swelling When did the swelling begin? Does it come and go or is it constant?
  • Did you eat any food or come in contact with any unusual substance that precedes the swelling?
  • Are you experiencing pain, difficulty breathing or other symptoms?
  • Provide your complete medical history, including all medical conditions, surgeries and treatments, family history and a complete list of the medications and dietary supplements you take.

Treatment for facial swelling

The swelling of the face usually goes away when the underlying cause is treated.

Cold compresses may be applied in cases where the swelling is due to injury. Warm compresses are useful in the treatment of styes.

The head of the bed can be raised to reduce facial swelling in some cases.

Prevent facial swelling by avoiding known allergens . Read the ingredient labels and ask your cook what ingredients are in the dishes you order.

If you have a known allergy that can cause anaphylaxis and have been prescribed epinephrine (Epi-Pen) medications , be sure to take it with you. This medication is used to counteract a severe allergic reaction and can prevent facial swelling.

If you had an allergic reaction to the medication, avoid taking it again. Notify your doctor about any reaction you have had after taking medications or eating certain foods.