Symptoms A-Z

Pain on One Side of The Face Symptom, Causes & Questions

Understand your pain on one side of the face symptoms, including 10 causes & common questions.

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Contents

  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes
  3. 10 Possible Conditions
  4. Treatments and Relief
  5. FAQs
  6. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  7. Statistics
  8. References

Pain On One Side Of The Face Symptoms

Sensation in the face is controlled by the trigeminal nerve, the fifth and largest cranial nerve of the body, and its many branches [3]. There are many different components of the face from muscles and bones to arteries and glands that can become disrupted, damaged or injured, resulting in facial pain that can be debilitating and sometimes difficult to resolve [1].

Characteristics

Pain on one side of the face can vary in quality. Depending on the cause, your facial pain may feel:

  • Sharp or Dull
  • Burning or Aching
  • Constant or Intermittent
  • Localized or Generalized
  • Electric/shock-like

Other symptoms

Since the quality and severity of facial pain can take many forms, it may also be difficult to characterize symptoms that may be associated with the pain as well. Often people with one-sided facial pain may also experience:

Regardless of the combination of symptoms, one-sided facial pain is often unbearable and necessitates an appointment with a physician in order to properly treat and diagnose symptoms.

Pain On One Side Of The Face Causes

The causes of one-sided facial pain are extremely broad and varied given the many components of the face that can become damaged, injured or inflamed. Though the breadth of this problem can feel overwhelming, causes of one-sided facial pain can be grouped into the following categories.

Neurologic

Neurologic causes of pain on one side of the face may include the following.

  • Neuropathic: The word neuropathic refers to a disruption in nerve functioning [2]. One-sided facial pain can be caused by malfunction of the trigeminal nerve [3]. In most cases, the exact mechanism causing the trigeminal nerve to malfunction is never diagnosed, but there are many diagnosable causes of trigeminal nerve dysfunction that this article will also discuss in depth.
  • Central: Central neurologic causes are those related to lesions or dysfunction in the central nervous system. Such pain can often happen after strokes or be attributed to conditions such as multiple sclerosis. Causes such as headaches and migraines can also be associated with one-sided facial pain. For example, people who suffer from migraines may feel an aura (a visual or sensory warning sign) on one side of the face before a migraine or a migraine may affect only one side of the face.

Infection

Infection-related causes of pain on one side of the face may include the following.

  • Bacterial: Many bacteria can affect parts of the head such as the teeth and sinuses and indirectly cause one-sided facial pain. For example, a bacterial infection of a tooth causing an abscess can result in swelling and discomfort in the face. Bacterial infection of the eye can cause pain that radiates to include the face. Furthermore, specific bacteria such as the bacteria causing Lyme disease can affect nerves of the face resulting in one-sided facial pain.
  • Viral: Certain viruses have a propensity for infecting and attacking the nerves of the face. Herpes zoster, the virus that causes shingles, can lay dormant in the trigeminal nerve and resurface to cause a painful, blistering rash of the face. Furthermore, the pain can recur even after the rash is treated and goes away in a condition known as post-herpetic neuralgia [6]. In addition, the same parts of the face that bacteria can infect, especially the sinuses and eyes, viruses can also infect and cause one-side face pain.

Structural

Structural causes of pain on one side of the face may include the following.

  • Musculoskeletal: Pain and dysfunction in the muscles that control chewing and movement of the jaw can result in debilitating one-sided facial pain that is easily triggered by common actions such as eating breakfast or yawning.
  • Obstruction: Many conditions may obstruct or put direct pressure on the trigeminal nerve to cause pain or nerve dysfunction [4]. For example, the presence of a salivary stone that obstructs the salivary gland may cause facial swelling that puts pressure on the trigeminal nerve causing pain.

Traumatic

Trauma-related causes of pain on one side of the face may include the following.

  • Iatrogenic: Iatrogenic is a term that describes a problem caused by medical intervention or treatment. Direct injury to the trigeminal nerve due to surgical trauma or treatment for the trigeminal neuralgia can result in a condition called Anesthesia Dolorosa (painful, post-traumatic trigeminal nerve dysfunction) that is characterized by one-sided facial or oral pain.
  • Other injury: It is important to remember that one-sided facial pain can also arise due to direct injury to the face that may result in a fracture or bruise. Large bruises and deformities are a clear cause of any facial pain you be experiencing, but also take note of any smaller cuts or lesions on the face that could be responsible for your symptoms.

10 Possible Pain On One Side Of The Face Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced pain on one side of the face. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Acute bacterial sinusitis

Acute bacterial sinusitis, also called bacterial rhinosinusitis or "sinus infection," has symptoms much like viral rhinosinusitis but a different treatment.

Any sinusitis usually begins with common cold viruses. Sometimes a secondary bacterial infection takes hold. Like cold viruses, these bacteria can be inhaled after an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Anyone with viral sinusitis, upper-respiratory allergy, nasal passage abnormality, lung illness, or a weakened immune system is more prone to bacterial sinusitis.

Symptoms include thick yellowish or greenish nasal discharge; one-sided pain in the upper jaw or teeth; one-sided sinus pain and pressure; fatigue; fever; and symptoms that get worse after first improving.

See a doctor right away for severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, or vision changes. These can indicate a medical emergency.

Diagnosis is made with a simple examination in the doctor's office.

Bacterial sinusitis can be treated with antibiotics, but this is not always necessary. Often rest, fluids, and over-the-counter pain relievers and decongestants are enough.

Prevention is done through good lifestyle and hygiene to keep the immune system strong.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, headache, cough, sinusitis symptoms, muscle aches

Symptoms that always occur with acute bacterial sinusitis: sinusitis symptoms

Symptoms that never occur with acute bacterial sinusitis: clear runny nose, being severely ill

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Temporomandibular joint (tmj) dysfunction disorder

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction is often caused by a variety of factors, including daily habits, your teeth alignment, and even stress. It usually affects one side of the jaw, but in some people it can affect both sides. People with TMJ dysfunction will typically experience pain on one side of the face that is worse with chewing, yawning, or other movements of the jaw. With some simple changes in your daily habits and other at-home treatments, most people with TMJ dysfunction will experience relief of their symptoms within weeks.

Treatment for temporomandibular joint dysfunction usually includes avoiding eating hard foods or foods that require a lot of chewing. Good posture and relaxation techniques may help relieve tension in the muscles that connect to your temporomandibular joint. In people who clench or grind their teeth, a mouth guard worn at night (and fitted by your dentist) may also help relieve your symptoms. Pain relievers, like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), can also help.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: dizziness, pain, restricted movement, and clicking sounds from jaw, history of headaches, jaw pain, pain in the back of the neck

Symptoms that always occur with temporomandibular joint (tmj) dysfunction disorder: pain, restricted movement, and clicking sounds from jaw

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Acute viral sinusitis

Acute viral sinusitis, also called viral rhinosinusitis or "sinus infection," occurs when viruses take hold and multiply in the sinus cavities of the face.

It is most often caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold and spreads the same way, through an infected person's coughing or sneezing.

Because children have small, underdeveloped sinuses, this illness is far more common in adults.

Symptoms include clear nasal discharge (not greenish or yellowish,) fever, and pain if facial sinuses are pressed.

If there is rash, severe fatigue, or neurologic symptoms (seizures, loss of sensation, weakness, or partial paralysis,) see a medical provider to rule out more serious conditions.

Diagnosis can usually be made through history and examination alone.

Antibiotics only work against bacteria and cannot help against a viral illness. Therefore, treatment consists of rest, fluids, and fever/pain reducers such as ibuprofen. (Do not give aspirin to children.) Symptoms of viral sinusitis last for about seven to ten days. As with the common cold, the best prevention is frequent and thorough handwashing.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: headache, cough, sinusitis symptoms, sore throat, congestion

Symptoms that always occur with acute viral sinusitis: sinusitis symptoms

Symptoms that never occur with acute viral sinusitis: being severely ill

Urgency: Self-treatment

Infection of the salivary duct (sialadenitis)

The ducts that create saliva can be infected by bacteria and is typically found after surgery in the mouth and in the elderly that take medications that slow saliva production.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fever, chills, swelling on one side of the face, pain on one side of the face, swollen jaw

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Sinus headache

Sinus headaches are very common. When compared to a normal headache, this pain is generally around the eyes, sinuses, and upper cheeks.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: headache, headache that worsens when head moves, facial fullness or pressure, mucous dripping in the back of the throat, sinus pain

Symptoms that always occur with sinus headache: headache

Symptoms that never occur with sinus headache: fever, being severely ill, sore throat, muscle aches, cough, drooping eyelid, wateriness in both eyes

Urgency: Self-treatment

Pain On One Side Of The Face Symptom Checker

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Myofascial pain syndrome

Myofascial pain syndrome is also called chronic myofascial pain (CMP.) Pressure on certain points of the muscles causes referred pain, meaning the pain is felt elsewhere in the body.

The cause is believed to be muscle injury through overuse, either from sports or from a job requiring repetitive motion. Tension, stress, and poor posture can also cause habitual tightening of the muscles, a form of overuse.

This overuse causes scar tissue, or adhesions, to form in the muscles. These points are known as trigger points, since they trigger pain at any stimulus.

Symptoms include deep, aching muscular pain that does not go away with rest or massage, but may actually worsen. There is often difficulty sleeping due to pain.

Myofascial pain syndrome should be seen by a medical provider, since it can develop into a similar but more severe condition called fibromyalgia.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and applying mild pressure to locate the trigger points.

Treatment involves physical therapy, pain medications, and trigger point injections. In some cases, acupuncture and antidepressants are helpful.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: dizziness, spontaneous shoulder pain, pain in the back of the neck, tender muscle knot, general numbness

Symptoms that always occur with myofascial pain syndrome: tender muscle knot

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the deep layers of the skin. It can appear anywhere on the body but is most common on the feet, lower legs, and face.

The condition can develop if Staphylococcus bacteria enter broken skin through a cut, scrape, or existing skin infection such as impetigo or eczema.

Most susceptible are those with a weakened immune system, as from corticosteroids or chemotherapy, or with impaired circulation from diabetes or any vascular disease.

Symptoms arise somewhat gradually and include sore, reddened skin.

If not treated, the infection can become severe, form pus, and destroy the tissue around it. In rare cases, the infection can cause blood poisoning or meningitis.

Symptom of severe pain, fever, cold sweats, and fast heartbeat should be seen immediately by a medical provider.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination.

Treatment consists of antibiotics, keeping the wound clean, and sometimes surgery to remove any dead tissue. Cellulitis often recurs, so it is important to treat any underlying conditions and improve the immune system with rest and good nutrition.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: fever, chills, facial redness, swollen face, face pain

Symptoms that always occur with cellulitis: facial redness, area of skin redness

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Viral throat infection

A viral throat infection is an infection of the throat, or pharynx, that is caused by viruses. Viruses are different from bacteria such as Streptococcus pyogenes (which causes "strep throat"). Viral infections are the most common cause of sore throats in children and adults.

Symptoms include a sore throat, fever, fatigue, congestion, runny nose, cough, or others depending on the specific virus. Less common symptoms that sometimes present in children include fluid-filled bumps on the hands, feet, or mouth, or, in adults, painful mouth ulcers.

Treatment focuses on rest, hydration, and over-the-counter methods to alleviate symptoms. Some cases require antiviral medications.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: sore throat, cough, congestion, fever, hoarse voice

Symptoms that always occur with viral throat infection: sore throat

Symptoms that never occur with viral throat infection: being severely ill

Urgency: Self-treatment

Carotid artery dissection

A carotid artery dissection is a tear in a layer of the wall of a blood vessel called a carotid artery, one of two such arteries found in the neck. Blood vessel walls normally have three layers, and a tear in any of these can allow blood to flow into the resulting space, causing the vessel to bulge. This bulge can form a blood clot, break off, and result in a stroke.

Symptoms include headache or neck pain,(https://www.buoyhealth.com/symptoms-a-z/imbalance-or-floating-feeling/)

Treatments include pain relief as well as methods to resolve or remove potential blood clots, prevent an initial stroke, facilitate stroke recovery, or reduce the risk of additional strokes.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: new headache, history of headaches, steady headache, neck pain on one side, headache near one temple

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Bruise of the face

A bruise is an area of skin discoloration. A bruise occurs when small blood vessels break and leak their contents into the soft tissue beneath the skin.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: swelling on one side of the face, head or face injury, painful face swelling, warm and red face swelling, face bruise

Symptoms that always occur with bruise of the face: head or face injury

Urgency: Self-treatment

Pain On One Side Of The Face Treatments and Relief

Treatment for your facial pain will most likely require a healthcare professional. Make an appointment with your physician in order to receive a diagnosis and get appropriate treatment. Depending on the diagnosis, your physician may recommend the following treatment options:

  • Anticonvulsants: Many anticonvulsant medications, such as gabapentin (Neurontin) or carbamazepine (Tegretol), more commonly used for seizures, are also used to combat nerve pain.
  • Antibiotics: If your facial pain is due to bacterial causes, your physician will prescribe the appropriate antibiotic medication to combat your symptoms. Viral causes will not resolve with antibiotics, and your physician will most likely suggest supportive remedies if that is the case.
  • Surgery: There are surgical procedures that can destroy nerve fibers in the face to reduce pain symptoms, especially for the neurological causes of facial pain. Talk with your physician about this option and assess if it is the best option for you.

FAQs About Pain On One Side Of The Face

Here are some frequently asked questions about pain on one side of the face.

Can stress cause pain on one side of the face?

Stress can be an important and powerful trigger for many of the causes discussed above. For example, in situations of high stress, some viral infections can be triggered and resurface such as the herpes zoster virus.

Can headaches cause pain on one side of the face?

Yes, primary headachesare considered a common cause of pain on one side of the face. Many types of headaches such as migraines and cluster headaches often present initially in the face.

Why do I only have pain on one side of the face?

Your pain is focused on one side of your face because the structure either a nerve, artery, muscle, etc. is affected, damaged or inflamed on that particular side and not the other.

Does anxiety cause pain on one side of the face?

Similarly to stress, anxiety may be a cause of one-sided facial pain for some individuals. Anxiety can quickly escalate into stress and cause similar symptoms/sequelae.

What are some things I can do to help alleviate my symptoms of pain on one side of my face?

In addition to treatment approaches that your physician prescribes, there are many helpful things you can do at home in order to help with your pain. Some people find low-impact exercise, yoga, creative visualization, aromatherapy, or meditation are helpful in achieving some resolution. Some people find therapy or counseling to be helpful in managing the feelings of isolation and depression that are often associated with chronic one-sided facial pain.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Pain On One Side Of The Face

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Are you experiencing a headache?
  • Do you feel a painful, tight knot or band in your muscle anywhere on the body?
  • Do you have a sore throat?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out why you're having pain on one side of the face

Pain On One Side Of The Face Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced pain on one side of the face have also experienced:

  • 6% Swelling On One Side Of The Face
  • 5% Headache
  • 5% Swollen Face

People who have experienced pain on one side of the face were most often matched with:

  • 50% Acute Bacterial Sinusitis
  • 37% Temporomandibular Joint (Tmj) Dysfunction Disorder
  • 12% Acute Viral Sinusitis

People who have experienced pain on one side of the face had symptoms persist for:

  • 38% Less than a week
  • 37% Less than a day
  • 12% Over a month

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Pain On One Side Of The Face Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you're having pain on one side of the face

References

  1. Chichorro JG, Porreca F, Sessle B. Mechanisms of craniofacial pain. Cephalalgia. 2017;37(7):613-626. PubMed Link
  2. Williams CG, Dellon AL, Rosson GD. Management of chronic facial pain. Craniomaxillofac Trauma Reconstr. 2009;2(2):67-76. NCBI Link
  3. Sanders RD. The Trigeminal (V) and Facial (VII) Cranial Nerves. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2010;7(1):13-16. NCBI Link
  4. Trigeminal Neuralgia Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Published June 2013. NINDS Link
  5. Trigeminal Neuralgia. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. AANS Link
  6. Sampathkumar P, Drage LA, Martin DP. Herpes zoster (shingles) and postherpetic neuralgia. Mayo Clin Proc. 2009;84(3):274-80. NCBI Link
  7. Tolosa Hunt Syndrome. National Organization for Rare Disorders. NORD Link