Facial Pain

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What is facial pain?

The face contains your eyes, eyebrows, forehead, nose, cheeks, mouth, teeth and chin. To facilitate expression and movement, the face relies on a complex network of nerves that supply energy to its numerous muscles. The face also contains blood vessels and glands, as well as bones that hold its structure in place. Your special senses, such as hearing, smell, taste and vision, are channeled through the structures of the face.

Facial pain may include injuries to the nerves or bones that coordinate many of your face’s actions. These injuries may include trauma to the face and upper maxillary bone (jaw bone) caused by a car accident, physical violence, or sports injury. Such injuries may cause a loss of sensation in the face, difficulties with breathing, swelling, blurred or double vision, facial deformities, and difficulties eating and drinking.

Sometimes facial pain is not trauma induced, but caused by a malfunctioning of the nerves that govern the face’s movement. The trigeminal nerve relays messages between your brain and sensory organs, providing information about face and scalp sensation (ophthalmic), the mouth and nose (maxillary), and chewing (mandibular). Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition manifesting with extreme facial pain that can feel like burning or an electric shock. The pain is severe enough that daily activities, such as chewing, eating, or teeth brushing, can be agonizing.

Other neurologic causes of facial pain include Bell’s palsy and Parkinson’s disease. Bell’s palsy produces paralysis on one side of the face. Facial symptoms from Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurologic condition, include facial tremors or twitches and a paralysis of the facial muscles that causes a rigid, mask-like appearance.

Allergies or infections that cause inflammation of the sinuses can produce facial pain. Facial pain can also be caused by sinusitis, an inflammation the sinuses, the air-filled pockets in the nasal passages, cheeks, forehead, and eyes. When your sinuses become clogged with excess mucus that cannot be drained, bacteria and other pathogens fill up your sinuses, causing pain and congestion.

Facial pain that was triggered by trauma should receive immediate medical attention. Seek immediate medica l care (call 911) if you suffered trauma to the head and face and are experiencing symptoms of lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea, double vision, or loss of consciousness.

What other symptoms might occur with facial pain?

Facial pain may accompany other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Related symptoms that may occur along with facial pain

Facial pain may accompany other symptoms in the head and neck region including:

Other symptoms that may occur along with facial pain

Facial pain may accompany symptoms related to other body systems including:

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, facial pain may be a symptom of a life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms including:

What causes facial pain?

Facial pain may include injuries to the nerves or bones that coordinate many facial actions. These injuries may include trauma to the face and upper maxillary bone (jaw bone) caused by a car accident, physical violence, or sports injury. Sometimes facial pain is not trauma induced but caused by a malfunctioning of the nerves that govern the face’s movement. Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition manifesting with extreme facial pain that can feel like burning or an electric shock. The pain is severe enough that daily activities, such as chewing, eating, or teeth brushing, can be agonizing.

Other neurologic causes of facial pain include Bell’s palsy and Parkinson’s disease. Bell’s palsy produces numbness and paralysis on one side of the face. Facial symptoms from Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurologic condition, include facial tremors or twitches and a paralysis of the facial muscles that causes a rigid, mask-like appearance.

Allergies or infection that cause inflammation of the sinuses can produce facial pain. Facial pain can also be caused by sinusitis, an inflammation the sinuses, the air-filled pockets in the nasal passages, cheeks, forehead, and eyes. The common cold or flu is another cause of facial pain.

Traumatic causes of facial pain

Facial pain may be caused by trauma including:

  • Car accidents
  • Chemical or toxic exposures
  • Falls
  • Occupational injuries
  • Physical violence
  • Sports injuries

Neurologic causes of facial pain

Facial pain can also be caused by neurologic causes including:

Sinus causes of facial pain

Facial pain can also be caused by infections of the sinus and nose including:

  • Rhinitis
  • Sinusitis

Serious or life-threatening causes of facial pain

In some cases, facial pain may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

Questions for diagnosing the cause of facial pain

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your facial pain including:

  • How long have you felt these symptoms?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • Have you suffered any trauma to the head or face?
  • Have you begun taking any new medications recently?

What are the potential complications of facial pain?

Because facial pain can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Bleeding
  • Chronic pain or discomfort
  • Infections
  • Loss of sensation
  • Nerve damage
  • Paralysis
  • Permanent facial injuries
  • Permanent scarring
  • Uneven face (asymmetry)
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Dec 10
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Facial trauma. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002057/
  2. Trigeminal neuralgia. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001751/
  3. Sinusitis. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001670/