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February 21, 2013, last updated February 9, 2015

By Alison Turner, Featured Columnist

Most of us have woken up with a puffy face at some point
in the past decade, but usually all it means is that we had a
good cry the night before. There are, unfortunately, several
conditions that result in facial swelling that are more
serious than a night of crying.

Facial swelling can arise from
allergic reactions, tumors,
dentistry issues, trauma, and other conditions.  In most
cases, a quicker diagnosis of the problem could mean
quicker treatment for the swelling.  

How Common Is Facial Swelling?

There are no hard estimates for the prevalence of facial
swelling around the world. But we do have some clues. In
2004, researchers from Glasgow Royal Infirmary and
Hairmyres Hospital in Glasgow, Ireland set out to determine
the prevalence of swelling symptoms in women. They were
interested in determining how often women experience
swelling anywhere on their bodies that is not related to
their menstrual cycles.  After examining 196 women who
were patients at a menopause clinic, 201 women fracture
patients and 201 women who were simply seeing their
general practitioner, the team discovered a pattern.

Three factors greatly increased the risk of swelling ---
being overweight, having a family history of swelling,and
having  so-called "affective symptoms", meaning  they had
conditions such as
Type 2 diabetes.

If a woman had even one of these three factors, her
chances of experiencing swelling increased by 8%. If a
women had all 3 of these factors, her risk of swelling
doubled, increasing by 100%.

With respect to the factor of being overweight, the team
noticed that women who have a body mass index over 25
were at elevated risk for swelling. That's not good news,
since the
average BMI of women in America exceeds 26.
(Read more about the
average weight of women in the US
compared to French women, UK women and other women
around the world.)

In many cases, doctors don't know what causes swelling.
So-called idiopathic swelling can simply appear and
disappear, perhaps related to hormonal swings. What they
do know is that most cases of facial swelling get worse
during the evening. In these cases, the culprit is usually
water retention. Try weighing yourself in the mornings and
again at night at a set time. If your weight gain exceeds 1.4
kg (3 pounds), you meet the criteria for water retention. In
this case, you should try to
reduce the amount of salt in
your diet to recommended levels.

Top Natural Remedies for Face Swelling

Check out the list below for reasons why your face might
be puffy, as observed by experts from around the world.

Nephrotic Syndrome and Facial Swelling -- Not the Bees'

The term nephrotic syndrome describes a group of
symptoms including protein in the urine, high cholesterol,
and swelling.  The condition is caused by various disorders
that damage the kidneys or previous conditions such as
cancer, diabetes, and immune disorders, which result in the
release of too much protein in the urine.  

The most common symptom of nephrotic syndrome is
swelling in the arms,
legs, feet, ankles, and, unfortunately,
the face.

In 2012, a team of experts including Dr. K. Kaarthigeyan
with the Department of Pediatrics at the PSG Institute of
Medical Sciences and Research in Coimbatore, India,  
encountered a rare occurrence of nephrotic syndrome: a
bee sting.  They reported on a 2 year old boy who
developed "generalized edema and decreased urine output,
seven days after a bee sting."  

Amongst other symptoms, he also showed abdominal
distension and facial edema (swelling).  Upon examination,
they found the boy's symptoms to be "consistent with
nephrotic syndrome," and treated him with corticosteroids.  

Treatment for nephrotic syndrome aims to relieve
symptoms, prevent complications, and delay kidney
damage.  These methods will vary depending on the cause
of each case, but may include medications or steroids, such
as in the case above, or prescribed low-protein, low-salt
diets.   As for the kiddos, we can't control every bee that
buzzes by: but we can be aware of the possible
consequences of bee stings, and keep our eye out for any
abnormal swelling.

Anaphylaxis: Alcohol and A Super Allergy

We're all a little bit allergic of something, right?  Springtime
pollination, our brother in-law's dog, our mother in law.  
But when allergies become so serious that they can be life
threatening, they are given a more awe-inspiring word of
their own: anaphylaxis.  

What is anaphylaxis? The National Libraries of Health
defines anaphylaxis as a "severe, whole-body allergic
reaction to a chemical that has become an allergen."  This
occurs when you are exposed to a substance, such as bee
sting venom, after which your immune system becomes
sensitized to that substance.  

When the person meets that substance again, the allergic
reaction occurs.  Symptoms of anaphylaxis develop quickly,
within minutes or seconds.  Symptoms include abdominal
anxiety, diarrhea, chest tightness, vomiting,
dizziness, and, yes, swelling of the face, eyes,

In 2010, Jessica Rajan and David Khan with the University
of Texas at Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas  set out
to determine whether or not the ethanol found in alcoholic
beverages is responsible for anaphylaxis sensitivity.  They
report on an unlucky 27 year old woman with a history of
allergies who experienced shortness of breath and facial
swelling after drinking a glass of wine, and "welps" after
drinking a margarita, and other, similarly unfortunate
consequences after drinking small amounts of alcohol.  

The experts determined that the patient had "developed
anaphylaxis to alcohol."  The patient was skin-tested for
ethanol, and underwent an "oral challenge" of abstaining
from alcohol for six months.  When she tried to drink
alcohol again, she "developed angioedema and hives."  She
took on the challenge for another long, dry six months,
after which time she "had no reaction," and at the time of
the report had been consuming alcohol for one year
without reaction.  

The team concluded that "anaphylactic reactions to alcohol
may remit spontaneously," so that care-takers should "use
caution" when reintroducing a patient to alcohol and other

If you take a few drinks from time to time to relax but end
up with a puffy face or hives, it could be that the nightmare
is real and you've developed an allergy to alcohol.  

Hypothyroidism Can Cause a Puffy Face

Hypothyroidism is a common thyroid problem among
women. Estimates of how many people are affected by
hypothyroidism range widely but, a 1992 study by Drs.
Johnson and Felicetta estimates  that 3% of men and up to
10% of all women suffer from this condition. One of the
most common symptoms of this condition is edema --fluid
build up --which can manifest itself anywhere on your
body, including your face.  

In most cases, treating the cause --- hypothyroidism ---
will also remove the symptom of facial puffiness. However,
in some cases the puffiness can persist. In these cases, try
to eliminate extra salt in your diet, coming as close to the
minimum sodium recommendation as possible to reduce
water retention.  You should also eliminate common dietary
allergens, such as gluten and
cow's milk, to see if your
symptoms improve. (Read more about
hypothyroidism and
natural remedies that help and read more about amaranth
and other gluten free grains.)

Adding foods rich in potassium such as dark leafy greens
(558 milligrams per 100 grams),
bananas ( 358 milligrams)
and mushrooms (396 milligrams) or magnesium, such as
almonds, also can help reduce swelling in your face.

Blood Transfusions Can Make Your Face Puffy.

If you’re getting a blood transfusion you probably don’t
have a lot of control over where the blood comes from and
how it’s being transfused.  Unfortunately, blood
transfusion can cause allergic reactions in some patients,
which, judging by a case that occurred in Nigeria,
sometimes manifests as facial swelling.

In 2012, Baffa A. Gwaram with the Department of Medicine
at Bayero University in Kano, along with other researchers
in Nigeria,  observed what kind of reactions occurred in
302 blood transfusions in 180 patients over a period of
three months.  

In 3.6% of the transfusions, reactions occurred.  One of
these allergic reactions “presented with facial swelling,
rashes and itching in addition to the fever.”  From the data,
the team concludes that “patients with previous history of
transfusions should be monitored closely as they have a
higher risk of developing transfusion reaction.”

The lesson to be learned here, perhaps, is not to avoid
blood transfusions; rather, if your face becomes swollen or
puffy after receiving a blood transfusion, be aware that it
could be an allergic reaction from that transfusion and seek
appropriate treatment.

Angioedema Plus Tooth Problems: Formula for Facial

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bananas health benefits
Add foods rich in potassium, such as bananas, to your diet
to reduce facial swelling caused by too much salt.