You may occasionally wake up with a swollen, puffy face. This could happen as a result of pressure being placed on your face while sleeping. However, a swollen, puffy face can also arise from a facial injury or indicate an underlying medical condition.

Facial swelling doesn’t just include the face, but it can also involve the neck or throat. If there are no injuries to the face, facial swelling can indicate a medical emergency. In most cases, a medical professional should treat facial swelling.

Several conditions can cause facial swelling. Here is a list of 10 possible causes. Warning: Graphic images ahead.

Allergic conjunctivitis

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  • This eye inflammation is caused by an allergic reaction to substances like pet dander, dust, pollen, or mold spores.
  • Red, itchy, watery, puffy, and burning eyes are symptoms.
  • These eye symptoms may occur in combination with sneezing, runny, and itchy nose.
Read full article on allergic conjunctivitis.

Preeclampsia

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Image by: Pilirodriguez/Wikimedia

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Preeclampsia ccurs when a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and possibly protein in her urine.
  • This generally happens after 20 weeks gestation, but may occur in some cases earlier in the pregnancy, or even postpartum.
  • It may lead to serious complications such as dangerously high blood pressure, seizures, kidney damage, liver damage, fluid in the lungs, and blood clotting issues.
  • It can be diagnosed and managed during routine prenatal care.
  • The recommended treatment to resolve symptoms is delivery of the baby and placenta.
  • Doctors will discuss the risks and benefits regarding timing of delivery, based on the severity of symptoms and the baby's gestational age.
  • Symptoms include persistent headache, vision changes, upper abdominal pain, pain below the sternum, shortness of breath, and mental status changes.
Read full article on preeclampsia.

Cellulitis

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Caused by bacteria or fungi entering through a crack or cut in the skin
  • Red, painful, swollen skin with or without oozing that spreads quickly
  • Hot and tender to the touch
  • Fever, chills, and red streaking from the rash might be a sign of serious infection requiring medical attention
Read full article on cellulitis.

Anaphylaxis

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • This is a life-threatening reaction to allergen exposure.
  • Rapid onset of symptoms occur after exposure to an allergen.
  • These include widespread hives, itching, swelling, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing, fainting, rapid heart rate.
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain are additional symptoms.
Read full article on anaphylaxis.

Drug allergy

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Mild, itchy, red rash may occur days to weeks after taking a drug
  • Severe drug allergies can be life-threatening and symptoms include hives, racing heart, swelling, itching, and difficulty breathing
  • Other symptoms include fever, stomach upset, and tiny purple or red dots on the skin
Read full article on drug allergy.

Angioedema

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Image by: James Heilman, MD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
  • This is a form of severe swelling beneath the skin's surface.
  • It may be accompanied by hives and itching.
  • It's caused by an allergic reaction to an allergen like food or medication.
  • Additional symptoms may include stomach cramping and discolored patches or rash on the hands, arms, and feet.
Read full article on angioedema.

Actinomycosis

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Image by: CDC/Dr. Thomas F. Sellers/Emory University [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  • This long-term bacterial infection causes sores, or abscesses, in the body's soft tissues.
  • Dental infections or trauma to the face or mouth may lead to bacterial invasion of the face or intestines.
  • Congestion under the skin first appears as a reddish or blueish area.
  • A chronic, slowly growing, nonpainful mass becomes an abcess with areas of thick, yellow, draining fluid.
Read full article on actinomycosis.

Broken nose

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  • A break or crack in the bone or cartilage of the nose, it's most often caused by trauma or impact to the face.
  • Symptoms include ain in or around the nose, a bent or crooked nose, swelling around the nose, nosebleed, and a rubbing or grating sound or feeling when the nose is moved or rubbed.
  • Bruising may occur around the nose and eyes that dissipates a few days after injury.
Read full article on a broken nose.

External eyelid stye

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Image by: Andre Riemann/Wikimedia
  • Bacteria or a blockage in the oil glands of the eyelid causes most eyelid bumps.
  • These red or skin-colored lumps typically occur along the edge of the eyelid.
  • Red, watery eyes, a gritty, scratchy sensation in the eye, and sensitivity to light are other possible symptoms.
  • Most eyelid bumps are mild or harmless, but some can indicate a more serious condition.
Read full article on external eyelid stye.

Sinusitis

  • Sinusitis is a condition caused by inflammation or infection of the nasal passages and sinuses.
  • It may be due to viruses, bacteria, or allergies.
  • The severity and duration of symptoms depends on the cause of infection.
  • Symptoms include decreased sense of smell, fever, stuffy nose, headache (from sinus pressure or tension), fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, or cough.
Read full article on sinusitis.

Facial swelling can be caused by both minor and major medical conditions. Many causes are easily treatable. However, some are severe and require immediate medical attention. Common causes of facial swelling include:

A swollen face due to an allergic reaction may be accompanied by other symptoms. These are the symptoms of anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction. Proper medical treatment must be administered immediately to prevent the reaction from turning into anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock can be lethal.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock include:

  • swollen mouth and throat
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • hives or rash
  • swelling of the face or limbs
  • anxiety or confusion
  • coughing or wheezing
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • nasal congestion
  • palpitations and irregular heartbeat
  • slurred speech

If you experience any symptoms of anaphylaxis, call 911 or your local emergency services immediately.

Symptoms of shock may set in quickly. These symptoms include:

  • rapid breathing
  • rapid heart rate
  • weak pulse
  • low blood pressure

In severe cases, respiratory or cardiac arrests may occur.

Common causes of an allergic reaction are allergens such as:

Call 911 or your local emergency services immediately if you’ve:

  • eaten foods that you’re allergic to
  • been exposed to a known allergen
  • been stung by a venomous insect or reptile

Don’t wait for the symptoms of anaphylaxis to set in. These symptoms may not occur right away, although they do in most cases.

Along with facial swelling, other symptoms may occur, including:

  • hives or rash
  • itching
  • nasal congestion
  • watery eyes
  • dizziness
  • diarrhea
  • chest discomfort
  • stomach discomfort
  • weakness
  • swelling of surrounding areas

See your healthcare provider immediately if you have facial swelling.

Swelling caused by a bee sting

If a venomous bee sting caused the swelling, remove the stinger immediately. Don’t use tweezers to remove the stinger. Tweezers can pinch the stinger, causing it to release more venom.

Use a playing card instead:

  1. Press down on the skin in front of the stinger
  2. Gently move the card towards the stinger.
  3. Scoop the stinger up from the skin.

Swelling caused by infection

If the swelling was caused by an infection in the eyes, nose, or mouth, you’ll likely be prescribed antibiotics to clear it. If an abscess is present, your healthcare provider may cut open the abscess and drain it. The open area will then be closed in with packing material to keep it from becoming infected and reoccurring.

Soothing a rash

A rash can be soothed with over-the-counter (OTC) hydrocortisone cream or ointment. Using a cool compress also can soothe the itch.

Other causes, such as fluid retention and underlying medical conditions, will be treated by a healthcare provider accordingly.

Prevent facial swelling by avoiding known allergens. Read ingredient labels and, when dining out, ask your waiter what ingredients are in the dishes you order. If you have a known allergy that can cause anaphylaxis and have been prescribed epinephrine medication such as an EpiPen, be sure to carry 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 medication, avoid taking that medication again. Notify your healthcare provider of any reactions you’ve encountered after taking medication or eating certain foods.

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