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Swelling of the temple, and swelling of the face in general, is relatively common in children and relatively rare in adults. It is the kind of condition that can develop in just a day or so with an infection, although it's unlikely that there will swelling of just the temples with food allergies or fluid retention after eating salty foods. Here are some of the more common underlying health conditions of which swelling of the temple is a symptom.

  • Lymphadenitis is the most common cause of swollen temples. It's nothing more than the swelling of a lymph node. Swellings at the side of the face can make the temple seem larger. What causes lymphadenitis? Bacterial infections from cat scratches are a leading cause, but the swelling can also occur after an ear infection, a cold, a nasal infection, or even acne or impetigo. The problem can also be sinusitis, or a dental infection. Exposure to pyrethrin insecticides (like those in flea sprays) can cause swelling of the temples, as can use of Dilantin (phenytoin) for epilepsy.
  • Bruxism, grinding the teeth at night, is another relatively common contributing cause of swelling in the temples. There would typically be pain around the mouth that radiates to the temple, but sometimes the pain is limited to the temples. There will also usually be grooves in the tongue, broken or chipped teeth, worn down teeth, and/or receding gums.
  • Temperomandibular joint syndrome, also known as TMJ, can cause swelling of the temples. TMJ is common in people who spend long hours at a laptop, or who have had facial injuries, or who have high stress lifestyles. The distinguishing symptom of TMJ is a popping sound as you eat, drink, or talk, along with a feeling that your jaw is not quite in the right place.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea can cause swelling of the temples and around the eyes.
  • Amateur Botox injections can cause swelling of the temples. A "Botox club" in Seattle in which a physician's assistant acting without supervision got the toxin for wrinkle reduction had multiple cases of swelling across the forehead as a result of the shots. This result is highly unlikely if you get your Botox injections from a licensed doctor.
  • Swollen temples, along with swelling of the face and scalp, can be a complication of blood disorders. People who have sickle cell disease or clotting disorders, the kind that cause blood to fail to clot, can have a purplish swelling of the face, especially around the eyes. This can happen when someone is just starting anticoagulant therapy and the dosage is not yet right.
  • Slowly growing swellings of the temples, a swelling that gets larger and larger over a period of months, can be caused by an underlying mass. These tumors are not necessarily cancerous, although you would want a doctor to check them out. The problem could be a cyst you've had all of your life that simply has taken a very long time to grow large enough to cause visible changes in your face.
  • Swellings in the face can be due a condition called fibrous dysplasia, in which bone marrow is replaced by fibrous tissue. This condition can show up as early as eight years of age, but it is most common in young adults, in their twenties. Pregnancy causes the swelling to accelerate. The good news is that the condition usually doesn't get worse after age thirty, although mild cases can become more and more visible with aging of the structures underlying the face.
  • Cancer typically would cause loss of sensation as it attacks nerves. If you lose sensation when you have swelling, see a doctor right away. The most common kind of cancer in the facial bones, Ewing's sarcoma, tends to strike children, rather than adults, and cause loss of feeling and loosening of the teeth.

If you have swelling of the temples, the cause could be any of these conditions, more than one of these conditions, or something entirely different. These symptoms will give you an idea of the range of possibilities with which you will be dealing. Other symptoms will point your doctor to the precise diagnosis.

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