Symptoms A-Z

Face Swelling on One Side? Learn Why This Occurs & What to Do

Swelling on one side of the face can present itself in different parts of the face like a swollen cheek or eye. Common causes of swelling could be allergy symptoms on one side of the face, a facial injury, or a skin infection. Read below for more information on associated symptoms, other causes, and treatment options on how to reduce facial swelling on one side.

An image depicting a person suffering from swelling on one side of the face symptoms

Swelling On One Side Of The Face Symptom Checker

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Contents

  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes
  3. 9 Possible Conditions
  4. Treatments and Relief
  5. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  6. Statistics

Facial Swelling on One Side Explained

Perhaps you're walking down the street or in a meeting with colleagues, and you notice something is off. Your face has felt a bit strange lately, so you quickly find a mirror. Much to your dismay, you realize you were right — one side of your face is swollen.

Facial inflammation and swelling can come from many different parts of the face, and may vary in size, severity and discomfort.

Common characteristics and accompanying symptoms of swelling on one side of the face are

The swelling can be associated with the following:

Why Is My Face Swollen on One Side?

Swelling, or inflammation, is your body's natural way of responding to an insult and letting you know that something is wrong. Since there are many organs and structures on the face, the source of the swelling can vary widely. You and your doctor can look at factors like the quality and location of the swelling as well as any potential triggers or injuries in trying to determine the underlying cause.

Irritation

Your face may swell on one side due to environmental irritants, such as the following.

  • Insect bites: Bug bites are common, and for some people they can become big, red, itchy, and swollen.
  • Plants: Venturing into wooded areas can be fun, but it also puts you at risk for contact with irritating plants like poison ivy or poison oak.
  • Allergies: Common allergies to plants, pets, or other irritants can result in facial swelling at times.

Infection

Infectious causes of experiencing swelling on one side of your face may include the following.

  • Skin infection: Bacteria can invade the skin surface and cause uncomfortable redness and swelling.
  • Pimples: Pimples occur when bacteria invade tiny pores in the skin, leading to infection and swelling.
  • Swollen lymph nodes: Lymph nodes store immune cells and can become painful and swollen when fighting an infection.
  • Swollen glands: These glands produce important products like tears and saliva, and they may become swollen if infected or otherwise irritated.
  • Dental problem: An infection in the mouth, such as a tooth abscess, can lead to pain in the mouth and swelling that is visible to the outside.

Other causes

Other, less common causes of facial swelling on one side may include the following.

  • Cancer: In rare cases, certain types of cancer show up as facial masses. They can grow and spread quickly.
  • Trauma: Talking a blow to the face can be uncomfortable and may lead to swelling and discomfort because of underlying injuries to the soft tissues or other areas.

9 Possible Swelling On One Side Of The Face Conditions

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

Allergic reaction (not life-threatening)

When the body encounters a harmful substance, it responds with inflammation and swelling that can be protective. In many individuals, the body responds this way to substances that are not normally harmful, like foods or pollen. This is the basis of allergy, or Type 1 Hypersensitivity.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: swollen face, swollen lips, lip numbness, hives, red swollen bumps or patches with a pale center, lip redness

Symptoms that never occur with allergic reaction (not life-threatening): shortness of breath, throat itching

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Acute salivary duct stone (sialolithiasis)

A salivary duct stone is the most common disorder of the salivary glands (where you make spit). They can range in size from tiny particles to stones that are several centimeters in length.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: swelling on one side of the face, swollen jaw, painful face swelling, spontaneous jaw pain, painful jaw swelling

Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit

Skin abscess

A skin abscess is a large pocket of pus that has formed just beneath the skin. It is caused by bacteria getting under the skin, usually through a small cut or scratch, and beginning to multiply. The body fights the invasion with white blood cells, which kill some of the infected tissue but form pus within the cavity that remains.

Symptoms include a large, red, swollen, painful lump of pus anywhere on the body beneath the skin. There may be fever, chills, and body aches from the infection.

If not treated, there is the risk of an abscess enlarging, spreading, and causing serious illness.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination.

A small abscess may heal on its own, through the body's immune system. But some will need to be drained or lanced in a medical provider's office so that the pus can be cleaned out. Antibiotics are usually prescribed.

Keeping the skin clean, and using only clean clothes and towels, will help to make sure that the abscess does not recur.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: rash with bumps or blisters, red rash, red skin bump larger than 1/2 cm in diameter, pus-filled rash, rash

Symptoms that always occur with skin abscess: rash with bumps or blisters

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

Swelling On One Side Of The Face Symptom Checker

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Chronic salivary duct stone (sialolithiasis)

A salivary duct stone is the most common disorder of the salivary glands (where you make spit). They can range in size from tiny particles to stones that are several centimeters in length.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: swelling on one side of the face, swollen jaw, spontaneous jaw pain, painful jaw swelling, painful face swelling

Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit

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

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, or "underactive thyroid," means that the thyroid gland in the neck does not produce enough of its hormones. This causes a slowing of the body's metabolism.

The condition can occur due to autoimmune disease; any surgery or radiation treatment to the thyroid gland; some medications; pregnancy; or consuming too much or too little iodine. It is often found among older women with a family history of the disease.

Common symptoms include fatigue, constantly feeling cold, weight gain, slow heart rate, and depression. If left untreated, these and other symptoms can worsen until they lead to very low blood pressure and body temperature, and even coma.

Diagnosis is made through a simple blood test.

Hypothyroidism is easily managed with daily oral medication. The patient usually starts feeling better after a couple of weeks and may even lose some extra weight. It's important for the patient to be monitored by a doctor and have routine blood testing so that the medication can be kept at the correct levels.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, muscle aches

Urgency: Primary care doctor

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

Swelling caused by use of an ace inhibitor

ACE Inhibitors are drugs used to prevent, treat or improve symptoms in conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart failure and diabetes. In rare cases, these drugs can cause an allergic reaction that can be life-threatening.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: shortness of breath, swollen face, trouble swallowing, swollen lips, swollen tongue

Symptoms that never occur with swelling caused by use of an ace inhibitor: hives, red swollen bumps or patches with a pale center

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

When and How to Seek Treatment for Swelling on One Side of the Face

Most causes of swelling on the face are not serious and will resolve within a matter of days. There are a number of tricks you can try at home to address your symptoms. If the problem is especially severe or persists for some time, it is best to seek help from your doctor.

At-home treatment

The following treatment options can be tried at home and are likely to provide some relief from your facial swelling.

  • Don't scratch: While you may feel a strong urge to touch, scratch, or pick at the area of swelling, this never helps and can introduce bacteria to the area that may cause an infection and worsen your symptoms.
  • Ice: Cold temperatures are an easy and natural way to relieve inflammation and itching on the face. Use an ice pack or ice wrapped in a washcloth and apply for several minutes at a time.
  • Antihistamine: Over-the-counter medications like Benadryl, Zyrtec, or Claritin counteract natural substances that cause itching and swelling and may relieve symptoms quickly.
  • Topical creams: There is a large number of anti-itch and antihistamine creams available at your local pharmacy that deliver medication directly to the area of concern.
  • Pain-relievers: NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) deal best with swelling and may also address discomfort.

When to see a doctor

If at-home treatment is ineffective, you should schedule an appointment to see a doctor. He or she may recommend the following.

  • Incision and drainage: If an infection is suspected as the underlying cause, a doctor may cut into the area of swelling to allow pus to be released.
  • Steroids: Medications like prednisone reduce swelling and redness from a wide variety of causes and are usually used for a short period of time.
  • Antibiotics: You will be given these if your doctor suspects a bacterial infection as the underlying cause for your swelling.
  • Imaging: A CT scan or MRI helps doctors learn more about the size and distribution of facial masses and are especially helpful if the cause of the mass is not immediately apparent.
  • Biopsy: In this procedure, a small piece of the mass is removed from the face by a needle or other tool and sent to the laboratory to be examined under a microscope.

When it is an emergency

Seek help without delay if you have:

  • Rapidly growing swelling
  • Trouble seeing, speaking, or breathing
  • High fevers
  • A history of cancer or of radiation to the face

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

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

  • If you touch the swollen area, is there pain?
  • Did you get hit in the head?
  • Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Were you hit or injured anywhere on your face? If so, where?

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 what might be causing your swelling on one side of the face

Swelling On One Side Of The Face Symptom Checker Statistics

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

  • 10% Pain On One Side Of The Face
  • 4% Headache
  • 2% Sore Throat

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

  • 40% Allergic Reaction (Not Life-Threatening)
  • 40% Skin Abscess
  • 20% Acute Salivary Duct Stone (Sialolithiasis)

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

  • 42% Less than a week
  • 40% Less than a day
  • 10% Over a month

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

Swelling On One Side Of The Face Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your swelling on one side of the face

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.