The sensation of face tingling is most commonly caused by anxiety or a panic attack. Tingling and numbness in the face can also be caused by nerve sensitivity or damage, specifically known as Bell's Palsy. Read below for more information on related symptoms, other causes, and treatment options.
Facial tingling and numbness symptoms
Facial tingling can be due to a variety of neurological or medical conditions. The most common cause of facial tingling is anxiety or a panic attack. However, irritation or damage to the nerves in the face cause facial tingling along with numbness or weakness. If the facial tingling is due to mild anxiety, it may be manageable at home with lifestyle modifications. However, most causes of facial tingling require evaluation and treatment by a doctor.
Common accompanying symptoms of face tingling
It's likely to also experience the following.
- Facial numbness
- Facial droop
- Facial pain
- Other neurologic symptoms
- Skin changes
More severe symptoms
If you experience the following, seek treatment immediately, as these may be symptoms of a stroke:
- Sudden-onset numbness or tingling of the face
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty finding your words
- Drooping on one side of the face
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What can cause tingling and numbness in the face?
Anxiety is the most common cause of facial tingling, and it may present with panic attacks. If your face tingling also presents with facial droop or other neurologic symptoms, this indicates a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).
Causes of face tingling that are likely temporary or reversible include the following.
- Anxiety: Numbness, tingling, or pain the face can be a manifestation of anxiety. Sometimes, people experiencing anxiety or a panic attack experience a tightening of the muscles of the neck and shoulders. This tightening can restrict blood flow to the face and cause the tingling sensation.
- Anesthesia: Local anesthesia from dental or facial procedures can cause numbness or tingling in the face. The sensation will wear off within several hours; however, numbness or tingling in the face for up to 12 hours following local anesthesia is common.
Neurological causes of face tingling include the following.
- Stroke: A stroke, or transient ischemic attack (TIA), is when blood flow to part of the brain is blocked, causing numbness, weakness, or other neurological problems in the body. A stroke refers to permanent damage due to lack of blood flow. A TIA refers to symptoms of blocked blood flow that then resolve; however, this can warn a stroke is going to occur.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS): MS is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the sheath around nerves in the body. Without this protective sheath, the nerves become damaged. Numbness or tingling in the face can be a symptom of nerve damage from MS.
- Nerve problem: The nerve that controls sensation to the face can become irritated or inflamed, causing numbness, tingling, or pain in the face. The cause of this condition is often unknown. Typically, symptoms are intense and short-lived and occur only on one side of the face.
Causes of face tingling related to another medical illness may include the following.
- Infection: The chickenpox virus can cause a condition known as shingles. Shingles involves a painful rash, usually in a particular distribution along a nerve's path, and only on one side of the body. If the rash is on the face, in the mouth, or in the ear, it can present with pain, numbness, or tingling in the face. Sometimes, the pain and tingling precede the rash by days.
- Systemic illness: There is a group of systemic disorders, known as scleroderma, that affect blood vessels. Damaged blood vessels may restrict blood flow to the face, causing numbness and tingling. Other symptoms include skin changes like itching, swelling, or tightening of the skin, particularly of the fingers and toes.
- Tumor: There are some tumors, particularly tumors of the ear canal, that can compress or irritate the nerves of the face and cause numbness, tingling, or facial droop.
This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
Bell’s palsy can present as acute or chronic facial paralysis. This paralysis is usually sudden in onset and worsens over the course of 48 hours. Resolution of symptoms usually occurs within two weeks to six months but permanent paralysis can rarely occur. Symptoms of this condition are a result of the paralysis of facial muscles. This paralysis usually occurs only on one side of the face. The cause of Bell’s palsy is inflammation or damage to the facial nerve, also known as cranial nerve VII. This nerve controls the muscles of the face. Treatment is aimed at reducing inflammation or targeting the underlying cause of facial nerve paralysis.
Top Symptoms: arm weakness, facial numbness, arm weakness, hearing loss, pain on one side of the face
Symptoms that always occur with bell's palsy: face weakness, weakness in one side of the face
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Nose or sinus tumor
A tumor in the nose or one of the sinuses occurs due to abnormal growth of the cells lining the inside of the nose and sinuses. These tumors are rare and can cause symptoms like congestion or blockage, nose bleeds and sometimes facial pain or swelling.
Rarity: Ultra rare
Top Symptoms: new headache, congestion, vision changes, ear fullness/pressure, ear pain
Symptoms that never occur with nose or sinus tumor: improving congestion
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Stroke or tia (transient ischemic attack)
Transient ischemic attack, or TIA, is sometimes called a "mini stroke" or a "warning stroke." Any stroke means that blood flow somewhere in the brain has been blocked by a clot.
Risk factors include smoking, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, though anyone can experience a TIA.
Symptoms are "transient," meaning they come and go within minutes because the clot dissolves or moves on its own. Stroke symptoms include weakness, numbness, and paralysis on one side of the face and/or body; slurred speech; abnormal vision; and sudden, severe headache.
A TIA does not cause permanent damage because it is over quickly. However, the patient must get treatment because a TIA is a warning that a more damaging stroke is likely to occur. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.
Diagnosis is made through patient history; physical examination; CT scan or MRI; and electrocardiogram.
Treatment includes anticoagulant medication to prevent further clots. Surgery to clear some of the arteries may also be recommended.
Top Symptoms: dizziness, leg numbness, arm numbness, new headache, stiff neck
Symptoms that never occur with stroke or tia (transient ischemic attack): bilateral weakness
Urgency: Emergency medical service
Panic or anxiety attack(s)
Panic or anxiety attacks are sudden feelings of intense fear or stress without true danger. Symptoms usually peak and then decrease within minutes. One may feel as if they are losing control or have physical symptoms like sweating or a racing heart. A panic attack can be a very scary experience and should be taken seriously.
Symptoms that always occur with panic or anxiety attack(s): anxiety or anxiety/panic attacks
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Multiple sclerosis (ms)
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a disease of the central nervous system. The body's immune system attacks nerve fibers and their myelin covering. This causes irreversible scarring called "sclerosis," which interferes with the transmission of signals between the brain and the body.
The cause is unknown. It may be connected to a genetic predisposition. The disease usually appears between ages 20 to 50 and is far more common in women than in men. Other risk factors include family history; viral infections such as Epstein-Barr; having other autoimmune diseases; and smoking.
Symptoms include numbness or weakness in arms, legs, or body; partial or total loss of vision in one or both eyes; tingling or shock-like sensation, especially in the neck; tremor; and loss of coordination.
Diagnosis is made through patient history, neurological examination, blood tests, MRI, and sometimes a spinal tap.
There is no cure for MS, but treatment with corticosteroids and plasma exchange (plasmapheresis) can slow the course of the disease and manage symptoms for better quality of life.
Top Symptoms: severe fatigue, constipation, numbness, decreased sex drive, signs of optic neuritis
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Shingles is a painful rash that results when the varicella zoster virus (VZV) — the same virus that causes the chickenpox — becomes reactivated. It results in a painful rash of small fluid-filled blisters (vesicles) over a single strip of skin on one side of the body..
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How to treat tingling in the face
Some causes of facial tingling symptoms are manageable at home. However, others require care from a physician.
When it is an emergency
Seek emergency treatment if you suddenly experience the following.
- Numbness or tingling in the face or body: Especially if it comes on suddenly or is only on one side
- Facial droop: Particularly if only on one side
- Confusion or disorientation
If the tingling in your face is due to mild anxiety, try the following.
- Take deep breaths
- Relax in a hot bath: Or some other light activity you enjoy
- Practice mindfulness: Various apps are available to help with this.
- Get a massage
When to see a doctor
If your face tingling persists or worsens, see a physician. He or she may recommend the following.
- Imaging: If you have new-onset tingling in the face, a doctor may order imaging of the face and head to determine the cause. A doctor will order a CT or MRI if they suspect stroke is the cause of the tingling in your face.
- Blood tests: If a doctor suspects a systemic medical illness is the cause of the tingling in your face, they may recommend blood tests to determine.
- Mental health referral: If a doctor suspects the tingling in your face is due to severe anxiety or panic attacks, they may refer you to a mental health professional. There are a variety of treatments for anxiety, including therapy, medications, and mindfulness-based practices.
- Medication: If a doctor suspects the tingling in your face is due to an infection, antivirals can treat the cause. If a doctor suspects a systemic medical illness is the cause of your facial tingling, other types of medication may be necessary.
Questions your doctor may ask about face tingling
- Have you been experiencing any muscle weakness that is symmetrical (equal on both sides of your body)?
- Have you lost some or all of your sense of taste?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with a psychiatric issue, such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, or anxiety disorder?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with a specific type of headache?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.