Numbness in Face: What Causes It and How to Treat It

Medically Reviewed By Avi Varma, MD, MPH, AAHIVS, FAAFP
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Numbness in the face results from nerve dysfunction or damage. While some conditions can cause sudden facial numbness, others can cause numbness in the face to develop slowly and worsen over time. Many factors can cause facial numbness, including exposure to cold temperatures, migraine, or chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis. Depending on the cause, treatments may include medications, physical therapy, or surgery.

Read on to learn more about some conditions that cause numbness in the face and how to treat them.

Exposure to cold

A man touching his face
Demetr White/Stocksy United

Exposure to cold temperatures can cause facial numbness. In extremely cold environments, you may be at risk of developing frostbite.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, frostbite can cause a loss of color and feeling in your skin. Your extremities and any exposed skin, including your face, may particularly be affected.

Treatment for cold exposure

The most important factor for treating numbness resulting from cold temperatures is getting to a warmer environment. Applying body heat or warm water to the affected area can be beneficial.

Never use a heated tool, like a heating pad or radiator, to warm your skin. The skin numbness can make it difficult to determine if these tools are too hot and causing damage.

Learn more about frostbite here.

Hemiplegic migraine

A certain type of migraine called a hemiplegic migraine may cause numbness in the face. People with hemiplegic migraine may also experience visual disturbances, motor weakness, or tingling.

Treatment for hemiplegic migraine

Treatment for hemiplegic migraine typically involves medications that can prevent episodes or treat symptoms once an episode has begun. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or drugs that treat nausea can be beneficial.

People with severe episodes may require hospitalization for additional treatment.

Learn more about hemiplegic migraines here.

Multiple sclerosis (MS)

One common initial symptom of MS is numbness, which can occur in the face, trunk, or extremities. MS is a disease that damages the protective covering of the nerve cells. This damage can also cause other nerve-related symptoms like tingling or pain.

Treatment for MS

There are several medications that can help suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation for people with MS. These include:

  • steroids
  • beta interferon drugs
  • glatiramer acetate
  • natalizumab
  • fingolimod

In addition, people with certain forms of MS that do not respond to medications may benefit from plasma exchange. This procedure involves removing blood from the body, filtering out harmful substances, and transfusing the blood back into the body.

Learn more about multiple sclerosis here.

Bell’s palsy

Bell’s palsy is a condition affecting the facial nerves, usually only on one side of the face. In addition to facial numbness, Bell’s palsy can cause weakness, paralysis, or drooping of the muscles.

Treatment for Bell’s palsy

Doctors typically use medications to treat the symptoms of Bell’s palsy. Steroids, along with antiviral medications, may increase the likelihood of regaining nerve function in the face. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen may provide pain relief.

Physical therapy, massage, and acupuncture may also help relieve facial pain and improve nerve function.

Learn more about Bell’s palsy here.

Shingles

Shingles is a condition resulting from the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, which remains in the body in an inactive state following chickenpox. Along with numbness, it may cause:

Treatment for shingles

While the condition is incurable, antiviral medications can help relieve some of the symptoms of shingles. Topical and oral pain relievers may also be beneficial.

Learn more about shingles here.

Tumors

In some cases, tumors can affect the facial nerves and cause numbness. Some tumors develop on the nerves themselves, while others grow in other parts of the face and put pressure on the nerves.

Treatment for tumors

Tumors may require surgical removal through excision or curettage. Depending on the type and stage of the tumor, doctors may also recommend chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or immunotherapy.

Stroke

A stroke occurs due to burst or blocked blood vessels in the brain. A stroke can cause sudden numbness in the face or extremities, typically on one side of the body. People experiencing a stroke may also have other serious symptoms like confusion, vision disturbances, or severe headache.

Treatment for stroke

Prompt treatment for a stroke is essential to reducing brain damage. Depending on the type of stroke, doctors may use medications to break up blood clots or surgery to stop brain bleeding.

People who have experienced a stroke often need speech, physical, or occupational therapy,

Learn more about strokes here.

What other symptoms might occur with numbness in the face?

Numbness in the face may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder, or condition.

Other facial symptoms that may occur

Facial numbness may accompany other symptoms affecting the face, including:

Other symptoms that may occur

Numbness in the face may accompany symptoms related to other areas of the body, including:

What are some potential complications of numbness in the face?

Without treatment, numbness in the face resulting from serious underlying conditions may cause severe complications and permanent damage.

Once doctors are able to diagnose the underlying cause, it is important for you to follow their treatment plan to reduce the risk of potential complications, such as:

  • brain damage
  • paralysis
  • permanent nerve damage

When should you see a doctor about numbness in the face?

Contact your doctor if numbness in the face is persistent or causes you concern.

In addition, seek immediate medical care or call 911 if a sudden feeling of numbness in your face occurs with:

  • numbness or weakness on one side of your body
  • a change in consciousness or alertness
  • a severe headache

These symptoms can be signs of a stroke.

Frequently asked questions

Here are a few common questions people ask about numbness in the face. Dr. Avi Varma has medically reviewed the answers.

Why does my face feel numb and tingly on one side?

Facial numbness affecting one side of the face may result from conditions like MS, Bell’s palsy, or stroke.

How do you get rid of numbness in the face?

Getting rid of numbness in the face depends on the underlying cause. Some cases of numbness in the face will resolve on their own. In other cases, a doctor may need to treat facial numbness with medications, physical therapy, or surgery.

Summary

Numbness in the face can result from many different conditions that affect the facial nerves. Depending on the cause, treatment may involve medications, physical therapy, or surgery.

Contact your doctor if you are experiencing numbness in the face that is persistent or occurs alongside other concerning symptoms.

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Medical Reviewer: Avi Varma, MD, MPH, AAHIVS, FAAFP
Last Review Date: 2022 Sep 1
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