Facial swelling

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

Facial swelling involves an accumulation of fluid in the face, which may extend to the neck and upper arms.


If the facial swelling is mild, it may be hard to detect. To assist the health care provider in diagnosing the cause, it is important to note the following:

  • Whether there is pain  
  • The duration of the swelling  
  • What makes it better or worse  
  • Any other symptoms that accompany the swelling

Common Causes

  • Obesity  
  • Allergic reaction (such as allergic rhinitis, hay fever, or a bee sting)  
  • Conjunctivitis with swelling around the eye(s)  
  • Stye with swelling around the infected eye  
  • Malnutrition (when severe)  
  • Sinusitis  
  • Facial trauma or injury (such as burns)  
  • Drugs including prolonged use or allergic reaction to aspirin, antipyretics, penicillin, sulfa, glucocorticoids, or other drugs  
  • Blood transfusion reaction  
  • Head, nose, or jaw surgery  
  • Angioedema from any cause including reaction to contrast media from radiologic tests  
  • Cellulitis  
  • Tooth abscess

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.

Call your health care provider if

  • There is acute, sudden, painful, or severe facial swelling.  
  • There is prolonged facial swelling, particularly if it is getting worse over time.  
  • There is any difficulty breathing.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office

If facial swelling is caused by burns and/or respiratory distress is present, emergency measures must be taken first. Then the medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed.

Medical history questions documenting facial swelling in detail may include the following:

  • Time pattern       o How long has the facial swelling lasted?       o When did it begin?  
  • What makes it worse?  
  • What makes it better?  
  • General health       o What is your height and weight?       o How is your diet?  
  • Other       o Has there been exposure to something to which the person may be allergic (an antigen)?       o What medication(s) are you taking?       o Have you had recent facial injury?       o Have you had a recent test or surgical procedure?       o What other symptoms are also present? Especially, is there:           + Facial pain           + Sneezing           + Difficulty breathing           + Hives or rash           + Eye redness           + Fever

DIAGNOSTIC TESTS will be determined by other accompanying symptoms and results of the physical examination.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Mamikon Bozoyan, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.