Simultaneous swellings of the face and lips can happen for a variety of reasons, but multiple and repeated episodes have only a few probably causes.
These swellings are harmless in most cases, but they are still treated aggressively as the face has a number of blood vessels that are in communication with extremely sensitive structures, like the cavernous sinuses in the brain.
Swellings of the face, particularly the sub-mandibular spaces, can also cause an obstruction of the airways. This can be life-threatening.
Some common conditions associated with facial and lip swellings are:
A lot of people are unaware of what they are allergic to something until they have an outbreak. It can be notoriously difficult to pin down the allergen. It could be anything, ranging from one ingredient in the toothpaste you use to a particular type of grape.
An allergy is the most likely cause of multiple episodes of facial and lip swelling without any other apparent reason.
The diagnostic process is complex and can take a long time, but an allergic reaction has certain characteristics that can be ascertained with a well-timed blood test. The kind of immunoglobulins produced by the body during this time can help give a clue to the nature of the reaction taking place. A visit to the doctor and a thorough history coupled with some blood work is what is most likely to work.
There are some cases where a severe infection can cause swelling of the face, lips and other associated structures. This is an extremely dangerous situation and hospitalization may be necessary.
The origin of the infection could be a tooth, the sinus or even the ear. Pus can accumulate in the mandibular and maxillary spaces, resulting in an inflammatory response in the affected tissues.
If the cause is infectious, an increased temperature of the overlying skin as well as a clear origin of bacteremia and septicemia will be apparent. A condition in which the swelling of the face crosses the midline is called Ludwig's Angina. It is seen in children or people with compromised immunity, like those with a HIV infection.
The treatment of this requires intravenous antibiotics to treat the infection, incision and drainage of the infected spaces and observation in the hospital till the swelling subsides.
Some genetic conditions that have facial swelling as a part of their characteristic symptoms can also be responsible. Erythema Multiforme and Kawasaki disease are two such conditions.
Again, there are other symptoms that will be associated with the presence of these diseases. Tests for autoimmune antibodies can help rule such conditions out. If a genetic disorder is present, managing the symptoms is often the only way forward. Contrary to popular belief, a family history of such conditions is common but not necessary.
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