Facial Problems, Noninjury

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Facial Problems, Noninjury

Topic Overview

Facial problems can be caused by a minor problem or a serious condition. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, or facial weakness or numbness. You may feel these symptoms in your teeth, jaw, tongue, ear, sinuses, eyes, salivary glands, blood vessels, or nerves.

Common causes of facial problems include infection, conditions that affect the skin of the face, and other diseases.


  • Bacterial infections such as impetigo and cellulitis can cause facial pain and oozing blisters or sores.
  • Viral infections such as shingles may affect nerves in the face or head, causing severe facial pain or eye problems (keratitis).
  • An infected or blocked salivary gland or a salivary stone (sialolithiasis) may cause facial swelling or pain, especially in the parotid gland (parotitis), which is located near the ear.
  • Lyme disease is an infection that is spread by the bite of ticks infected with a bacteria. It may cause facial pain, headache, stiff neck, or paralysis of the facial nerves.

Skin conditions

  • Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that causes redness on the face, usually on the cheeks, nose, chin, or forehead.
  • Acne commonly occurs on the face, especially in teens and young adults.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis causes red, itchy, flaky skin patches along the eyebrows, nose, and mouth.

Other conditions and diseases

  • Sinusitis causes a feeling of pressure on the face. Sinusitis can follow a cold or may be caused by hay fever, asthma, or air pollution. It is more common in adults, but it can occur in children as an ongoing (chronic) stuffy nose. See a picture of the facial sinus cavities.
  • Dental problems, including infections, can cause facial pain and swelling in and around the jaw area. Jaw pain may be caused by a temporomandibular (TM) joint problem. This condition can cause pain in the TM joint (located in front of the ear), in the ear, or above the ear. For more information, see the topic Mouth Problems, Noninjury.
  • Headaches, such as migraines or cluster headaches, can cause severe pain around the eyes, in the temple, or over the forehead. Giant cell arteritis generally affects older adults and may cause headache and pain and may lead to blindness if not treated. For more information, see the topic Headaches.
  • Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition that causes abnormal stimulation of one of the facial nerves. It causes episodes of shooting facial pain.
  • Closed-angle glaucoma causes vision changes and severe, aching pain in or behind the eye.
  • Conditions that cause problems with the muscles or nerves in the face include:
    • Bell's palsy, which is caused by paralysis of the facial nerve. Weak and sagging muscles on one side of the face is the most common symptom. It also may cause an inability to close one eye and mild pain in the facial muscles.
    • Multiple sclerosis, which may affect facial muscle control and strength, affect vision, and cause changes in feeling or sensation.
    • Myasthenia gravis, which causes facial muscle weakness leading to drooping eyelids and difficulty talking, chewing, swallowing, or breathing.
    • Facial paralysis from a stroke.
  • Lupus causes inflammation, fatigue, and a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks.

Treatment depends on what is causing your facial problem. In many cases, home treatment may be all that is needed to relieve your symptoms.

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

Check Your Symptoms

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Home Treatment

Facial or sinus pressure, mild headache, or nasal stuffiness are common with a cold or flu. Home treatment can help relieve your symptoms.

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Extra fluids help keep mucus thin and draining, which may help prevent blockage of the sinuses.
    • Adults require 8 fl oz (250 mL) of water or juice every hour.
    • Children require about half that amount.
  • Use a humidifier to keep the air in your home moist.
  • Inhale steam from a vaporizer, or take long, steamy showers. You may also try breathing the moist air from a bowl of hot water. Put a towel over your head and the bowl to trap the moist air. Make sure the water isn't too hot. Be careful not to get burned by the hot water or steam.
  • Use saltwater nasal washes to help keep the nasal passages open and wash out mucus and bacteria. It also may help to gargle with warm salt water. [Add 1 tsp (5 g) to 16 fl oz (500 mL) of water.]
  • Put warm, wet compresses on your eyes and cheekbones if you have pain around that area. Washcloths dipped in hot water work well. Make sure the water is not too hot so you do not get burned.
  • Avoid alcohol. It makes the tissues lining your nose and sinuses swell up.
  • Do not swim in chlorinated swimming pools. Chlorine can irritate nasal and sinus linings.
  • Elevate your head at night. Some people find it helpful to sleep on 2 or 3 pillows.
  • Use decongestants to relieve nasal stuffiness.
    • Decongestants can be taken by mouth or used as nose drops or sprays. Oral decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), are probably more effective and provide longer relief, but they cause more side effects. Sprays and drops provide rapid but temporary relief.
    • Check with your doctor before using nonprescription medicines if you have high blood pressure or kidney disease. In some states, medicines containing pseudoephedrine (such as Sudafed) are kept behind the pharmacist's counter or require a prescription. You may need to ask the pharmacist for it or have a prescription from your doctor to buy the medicine.
    • Use decongestant nasal sprays sparingly and for only 3 days or less. Continued use may lead to a rebound effect, which causes the mucous membranes to become more swollen than they were before you started using the spray.
Note: Decongestants may not be safe for young children or for people who have certain health problems. Before you use them, check the label. If you do use these medicines, always follow the directions about how much to use based on age and, in some cases, weight.

Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.

Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:

Talk to your child’s doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.

Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

For home treatment measures on other types of facial symptoms, such as eye, nose, mouth, or ear, see the specific topic in Related Information.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Facial pain or swelling increases.
  • Vision changes develop.
  • Painful facial rash develops.
  • Facial feeling or sensation changes develop.
  • Symptoms continue despite home treatment.
  • Symptoms become more severe or more frequent.


The following home treatment measures may help prevent sinusitis:

  • Use a humidifier to keep the air in your home moist.
  • Treat colds promptly. Blow your nose gently. Do not close one nostril when blowing your nose.
  • Drink extra fluids when you have a cold. This helps keep mucus thin and draining.
  • Do not drink alcohol. It makes the tissues lining your nose and sinuses swell up.
  • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Smokers are more prone to sinusitis. Also, avoid secondhand smoke. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
  • Use a decongestant nasal spray before or during airplane flights, especially during landing.

Preparing For Your Appointment

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:

  • What are your main symptoms? How long have you had your symptoms?
  • Have you had this problem before? If so, how was it treated?
  • What makes your symptoms better or worse?
  • Have you recently had a cough, cold symptoms, allergies, or headaches? Be prepared to describe any nasal drainage or sputum coughed up, or the location and severity of headaches.
  • Have you had an injury to this area? Do you have any continuing problems because of a previous injury?
  • What home treatment measures have you tried? Did they help?
  • What prescription or nonprescription medicines do you take?
  • Do you have any health risks?


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerDavid Messenger, MD
Last RevisedApril 14, 2011

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