Nothing is more alarming than glancing in the mirror, only to find that your face is puffy. Your first thought might be, “Oh no, am I gaining weight?” But that’s not the only reason. Facial swelling has several potential causes, and some are pretty serious.
It is easy to think that weight gain or exhaustion is at play when your face puffs up. But, look at the bigger picture, and pay attention to other symptoms. You might be surprised at what’s going on.
What Is Facial Swelling?
Facial swelling develops when fluid builds up in the tissues of your face. Sometimes, it can even affect the neck and upper arms. Mild facial swelling is easy to miss, so it might help to ask a friend or roommate if they notice anything odd.
Potential Reasons Behind A Swollen Face
Allergic reactions are known to cause swelling. The skin might be red, painful, and itchy. Got a rash? That’s an obvious sign that your body isn’t happy with something. The tricky part is that the allergen can be anything. Maybe it’s a food you ate or perhaps it’s that new face wash. It could also be pollen in the air. If you can’t pinpoint the offender, visit an allergist. It’s the only way you will know what to avoid.1
2. Drug Reaction
Some medications cause facial swelling. Aspirin, penicillin, sulfa, and glucocorticoids are just a few examples. It may or may not be an expected side effect, so be sure to give your doctor a heads up. If it’s not supposed to happen, you might need a different prescription.2
Cellulitis is a common skin infection, often caused by Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria. Major risk factors include wounds, insect bites, and medication. If cellulitis develops, skin tissue might become swollen, tender, and red. It might feel warm, look stretched, and tight. Don’t get this confused with cellulite, a harmless condition of dimpled skin. Cellulitis is deadly! Visit the emergency room as soon as possible because you’ll need a high dose of antibiotics.3
4. Sinus Infection
A sinus infection, or sinusitis, might be the culprit. A staggering 9 out of 10 cases are caused by a virus, while 1 out of 10 is caused by bacteria. Additional symptoms of a sinus infection include a headache, stuffy nose, facial pain, fever, coughing, and a sore throat. If it’s viral sinus infection, take it easy and rest as it’ll go away on its own. Bacterial infections will need antibiotics. To figure out what’s going on, visit a doctor.4
5. Tooth Abscess
If your tooth is hurting like crazy when your face is swollen, you might be facing a tooth abscess or an infection of a cracked tooth or cavity. Pus builds up in the center and wreaks havoc. A puffier jawline is a tell-tale sign, along with pain while chewing and swollen glands in the neck. Pay a visit to the dentist as soon as possible because an untreated tooth abscess can be life-threatening.5
Your thyroid gland is a big deal. It produces thyroid hormones that control countless functions in the body. If it doesn’t make enough, a condition known as hypothyroidism causes metabolic changes that show up as physical symptoms, including a puffy face. Other common complications include dry skin, hair loss, and dry mouth. Think your thyroid gland is underactive? Get a blood test done to see if you need medication.6
A puffy face could be an indication of a serious medical condition that you could overlook. So, be cautious and keep an eye out for these symptoms.
|↑1||What Are the Symptoms of an Allergy?. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.|
|↑2||Facial Swelling. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑3||Cellulitis. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑4||Sinus Infection (Sinusitis). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑5||Tooth Abscess. Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.|
|↑6||Keen, Mohammad Abid, Iffat Hassan, and Mohammad Hayat Bhat. “A clinical study of the cutaneous manifestations of hypothyroidism in Kashmir valley.” Indian journal of dermatology 58, no. 4 (2013): 326.|