Symptoms, Causes & Treatments for Numbness in Face

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Facial numbness may be experienced on one or both sides of the face.
Facial numbness may be experienced on one or both sides of the face. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Facial numbness is the loss of voluntary muscle movement in the face. The experience of facial numbness can be very frightening, as a person may not know why he has lost sensation or control in the face. If you suspect a stroke or other serious problem, call 911 immediately.

Symptoms

Symptoms of facial numbness include lack of feeling, paralysis or tingling of the face and lips. Facial numbness may occur on one or both side of the face. Sometimes, facial numbness is accompanied by swelling, redness or a burning sensation.

Cause: Injury

Facial numbness may be caused by nerve injury. Injuries to the face, neck or spine may cause numbness, tingling or paralysis of facial muscles if the injury impairs a nerve that extends to face. The injury may be severe, but it need not be. Even minor injuries, such as muscle strain from heavy lifting or minor impact, can cause a bulging disk that leads to facial numbness.

Cause: Stroke

Brain damage from stroke can also cause facial numbness. When a stroke develops, oxygen and blood fail to reach the brain, causing nerve damage that affects feeling in the face and other parts of the body. Facial numbness one side, especially if accompanied by paralysis of the arm or leg on that same side of the body, may be one of the first indicators that a person has suffered from a stroke.

Cause: Medical Condition or Drugs

Medical conditions such as diabetic neuropathy, brain tumor, sarcoidosis, lyme disease, infection, multiple sclerosis and Bell’s palsy can cause facial numbness. They may also cause numbness in other parts of the body. Migraine sufferers have also reported facial numbness as one of their symptoms during the climax of headaches. Certain drugs also cause facial numbness if they interfere with neurotransmitters.

Treatment

Treatment depends upon the diagnosed cause of facial numbness. Often, facial numbness is a symptom of a more serious problem or illness that requires care. Therefore, facial numbness itself is not always itself directly treated. If the facial numbness is determined to be the cause of a trauma or stroke, then your doctor will conduct neurological exams, such as an MRI, CT scan or electromyography, to determine the extent of nerve damage. Nerve damage in the face may be treated with physical, speech or occupational therapy or a combination of the above. A plastic surgeon may also help to reconstruct the face and repair facial function.

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