Why Is Just One Side of My Face
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September 12, 2017

Ariadne Weinberge, Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of Doctors and
Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of
our Editorial Board]

Imagine waking up with one side of your face all puffy.
Why just the one side? Why is just my left cheek swollen?

That recently happened to me in the context of allergies, or
perhaps sinusitis. I never really figured out what the thing
was. I threw some onions and ginger in my body and called
things good. The swelling went away.

That is the best case scenario. However, there are other
instances in which the situation calls for a bit more
intervention, whether that solution be surgical or a cream.

Called "unilateral swelling", the condition can be caused by
a lot of different circumstances, don’t jump to conclusions
of death and doom too fast. The situation could be a simple
sinusitis, such as in my case, a reaction to something, or a
condition developing.

Here is a list of some common circumstances of unilateral
swelling and 10 actions you can take:

Bell’s Palsy and Eye Care
Bell’s Palsy occurs when the nerve that controls facial
muscles becomes inflamed, swollen, and compressed. The
condition can happen unilaterally.

According to a 2011 report from Dr. J.M.K. Murthy from the
Institute of Neurological Sciences in the CARE hospital in
Hyderabad, India, when the condition becomes acute, eye
care is especially important because corneal complications
can occur. Patching the eye and using lubricating drops
frequently during the day can help. Additional treatments
for Bell’s Palsy include physical therapy, corticosteroids,
and antiviral agents.

Facial Erythema Rosacea and Licorice Cream

Erythema is not a fun condition: described as the redness
of inflammation of skin or mucous membranes that is a
result of dilation and congestion of superficial capillaries,
the disease can also be accompanied by rosacea, reddening
of the face.

One treatment for erythema is Eucerin redness relief
(brand), made from licorice extract licochalcone.

In a 2016 report, Martin Steinhoff from University College
Dublin affirms that the only approved prescription
medication is an a2 adrenergic receptor agonist
brimonidine, which contains 0.33% topical gel (mirvaso).

Food Allergies and Antihistamines

With common food allergies, there tends to be a swelling
on the left side of the face. This is often accompanied by
urticaria, more formally referred to as hives.

The predominant food allergies associated with urticaria
and hives are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and
shellfish, according to a 2011 study by Amin Kanani from
the Department of Medicine at the University of British

While in subtle cases a cold compress to reduce swelling
will do the trick, Kanani recommends second-generation H1-
receptor antihistamines for the majority of cases. Check
with your doctor to see which is best for you.

Sinusitis and Drainage

Sometimes one side of the face will swell up due to
sinusitis. This happened to me recently, where I felt that I
was experiencing an allergic reaction, with my nose and
eyes dripping, but only on the left side of my face.

My condition resolved in a few days without any extra help
besides imbibing an infusion of onion and ginger. However,
sometimes there are more extreme cases.

Acute orbital inflammation (the eyes swelling up) is
secondary to sinusitis in 70% of cases, according to a 2004
report by Bradford Goodyear from the Bradford Royal
Infirmary in the U.K. In the same study, they examined the
case of a 14-year-old boy who had an emergency
endoscopic drainage of the left orbital abscess.

In extreme situations, this kind of drainage is necessary.
However, in less severe cases, a saline solution, steam,
and/or warm and cold compresses will aid in drainage and
make the swelling go down.

Malnutrition and Reincorporating Nutrients  

Sometimes swelling, whether unilateral or bilateral, is
caused by a lack of nutrients in the system. The most
common case is missing protein. This is because the
albumin protein is one of the largest components in your
blood. With the right amount of the substance in your
blood, the body can maintain balance, keeping water out.

Without enough protein, water retention and edema
(swelling) occurs.

There are, however, rare cases, such as vitamin K or other
nutrient deficiencies. In 2010, Y. Myoken from the
Hiroshima Red Cross Atomic Bomb Survivors Hospital
reported a case of unilateral cheek swelling in an infant and
internal bleeding caused by vitamin K deficiency. Bottom
line: Check with a nutritionist to see what’s up, but if the
case is not severe, try incorporating more protein into your

Tooth Abscess and Drainage/removal

Often bacterial and other infections in teeth will leave the
face all puffy. I remember when I got my wisdom teeth
removed, I had one side of my face especially swollen up
from my body’s reaction to the surgery. The bruises were
so ugly they got poetic shades of yellow alongside an
almost black purple. Not pretty.

However, oftentimes the tooth being there is the problem,
not the surgery to remove the little bugger. In 2010, Dr. Al-
Muharraqi from the Defence Force Hospital in Bahrain
reported a case of a 35-year-old Arab man with unilateral
facial nerve palsy, due to an infected lower 3rd molar.
There was a fair amount of left-sided facial swelling, and
the only solution was a surgical removal of the tooth and
drainage of the abscess. If your unilateral swelling seems
to be due to tooth pain, get yourself to a dentist as soon as

Conjunctivitis and Anti-inflammatory Agents

In other cases, the unilateral swelling is a little higher up on
the face.
Conjunctivitis can make the eye and one side of
the face puffy. This eye condition is a little trickier to
diagnose and treat, because when unilateral, the range of
possibilities of the cause is wider.

The best strategy is to get a full ophthalmological
assessment. According to a 1998 report by Gary L. Morrow
from the Toronto East General and Orthopedic Hospital,
some possible unilateral conjunctivitis causes could be:
keratitis, nasolacrimal duct obstruction, occult foreign
body, and conjunctival neoplasia.

The most common cures are topical antibiotics, mast cell
stabilizers, and anti-inflammatory agents. However, go get
a diagnosis first and then move on to discuss possibilities
with your physician.

Parotitis and Antibiotics

The inflammation of the parotid gland is usually due to
Mumps virus. The parotid gland is a bilateral salivary gland
located in the face, and when malfunctioning, bilateral
swelling of the face can be a side effect.

According to William Goldenberg from the Stony Brook
Emergency Medicine in New York, other causes may
include: influenza, parainfluenza, echovirus, or HIV.

If you are having salivary gland problems which cause face
swelling, check with a doctor. Usually they will give you
different kinds of antibiotics.

Neurofibroma and Surgery

In some cases, the only option is surgery. Neurofibroma is
a severe case that often results in unilateral face tumors,
which can also affect vision. In a 2012 study by I.A.
Chaudhry, at the King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital in
Saudi Arabia, they followed sixty patients for an average of
5.7 years. Eyelid swelling, as well as decreased visual
acuity, and facial and orbital tumors were involved. Multiple
procedures were needed to preserve vision and restore
cosmetic rehabilitation.

Hyperthyroid (or hypothyroid) and Balancing

Sometimes a hypothyroid condition, whether the disease be
benign, or serious, like
Hashimoto’s, can cause facial
swelling. Researchers from New York Presbyterian Hospital,
Columbia University, discovered that prominent swelling of
cheeks is a typical characteristic of hyper thyroid associated
eye pain.

Usually thyroid problems are a multifaceted situation that
require multiple lines of attack, but getting a doctor’s
advice about what kind of medicine, natural and otherwise,
can balance out your hormones, is a good first step.


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