What is numb face?
Numb face is caused by decreased sensation in the face from either nerve dysfunction or damage. It can result from an injury to the face or exposure to cold temperatures. Alternatively, numb face may be caused by neuropathy, a disorder in which the nerves that relay signals between the body and the brain do not function properly. Multiple sclerosis is an example of a chronic condition that can result in numbness of the face.
Neuropathy or nerve damage can be due to a number of specific diseases and disorders. In many cases, neuropathy has no known cause. In rare cases, if the numb face is accompanied by numbness or weakness of the arms or legs on one side of the body, it can be a sign of stroke. Numbness of the face can also result from injury or, rarely, tumors of the brain or nerves.
The duration and course of numb face vary widely, depending on the cause. Symptoms caused by injury often have a sudden onset. In other cases, numb face resulting from underlying neuropathy develops slowly and persists or worsens over time.
Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if a sudden feeling of numbness in your face is accompanied by numbness or weakness on one side of your body; a change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness; or the worst headache of your life, as these can be signs of stroke.
If your numb face is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.
What other symptoms might occur with numb face?
Numb face may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the face also involve other body systems.
Face symptoms that may occur along with numb face
Numb face may accompany other symptoms affecting the face including:
- Heightened sensation
- Redness, warmth or swelling
Other symptoms that may occur along with numb face
Numb face may accompany symptoms related to other body systems including:
- Changes in sensation
- Difficulty walking
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Impaired coordination
- Muscle weakness
- Nerve pain
- Numbness or tingling in other areas of the body
- Pain when walking
- Sharp pain that may be worse at night
Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition
Sudden numb face accompanied by numbness or weakness on one side of your body can be signs of a stroke. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have numb face along with other serious symptoms including:
Abnormal pupil size or nonreactivity to light
Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness
Garbled or slurred speech or inability to speak
Paralysis or inability to move a body part
Worst headache of your life
What causes numb face?
Numb face can be the result of nerve or skin damage to the face and surrounding tissues. Disorders affecting the nerves, such as tumors and stroke, may also cause numb face.
Common causes of numb face
Numb face may be caused by several common conditions including:
- Exposure to cold
- Exposure to toxic or poisonous compounds
- Head or facial trauma or injury
- Pressure on nerve or nerve entrapment
Disease causes of numb face
Certain diseases and conditions may at times cause numb face including:
Exposure to toxins
Multiple sclerosis (disease that affects the brain and spinal cord causing weakness, coordination, balance difficulties, and other problems)
Serious or life-threatening causes of numb face
In some cases, numb face may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. These include:
Brain or nerve tumors
Severe head injury
Transient ischemic attack (temporary stroke-like symptoms that may be a warning sign of an impending stroke)
Questions for diagnosing the cause of numb face
To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your numb face including:
- How long have you felt numbness in your face?
- Does your face always feel numb?
- Where do you feel your face numbness?
- Do you have any other symptoms?
- What medications are you taking?
Because numb face 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:
- Brain damage (if your numb face is due to a stroke)
- Permanent nerve damage