Follow this chart to help distinguish various types of swelling on the face.




Begin here
1. Do you have a painless, soft to firm lump on your head, face or neck? Yes --> You may have a SEBACEOUS CYST, a collection of oil under the skin. Sebaceous cysts are usually small and grow slowly. --> See your doctor is the cyst becomes tender or inflamed. Your doctor may suggest treating an inflamed cyst with injections. He or she may also recommend surgery to remove the cyst.
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2. Are your lips and eyes swollen and do you have a rash that looks like mosquito bites? Yes --> Your symptoms may be from an ALLERGIC REACTION or HIVES. -->


If you have trouble breathing, your throat becomes tight, or the swelling becomes severe, see your doctor or go to the emergency room right away.

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3. Do you have a painful pink or red bump, or a group of smaller bumps on your forehead or face? Yes --> You may have a skin infection such as BOILS, CARBUNCLES, or ACNE. A boil is a large, pus-filled bump. Multiple boils are called carbuncles. Acne occurs when oil glands start producing more oil and block pores. Acne can result in blackheads, whiteheads and pimples. --> Warm compresses may help boils and carbuncles heal faster. See your doctor if you’re in pain or if the infection hasn’t healed in a couple of weeks. If you have acne, try using an over-the-counter acne medicine. See your doctor if the problem persists.
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4. Do you have red, flaky, oily areas near your scalp, in the folds of your nose, or on your cheeks? Yes --> You may have a skin irritation caused by ACNE ROSACEA or SEBORRHEA. --> See your doctor.
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5. Do you have painful swelling near one or both ears, and do you have fever along with pain when chewing or swallowing? Yes --> You may have the MUMPS, a contagious viral infection that affects the glands below and in front of the ears. --> The MMR vaccine prevents mumps. If you think you have mumps, see your doctor. Because this infection is caused by a virus, antibiotics aren’t effective. Get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines to relieve the pain. Cold compresses may also help.
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6. Do you have reddish, raised, excessive tissue that seems to be growing around the area of a scar or piercing? Yes --> You may have a KELOID. --> See your doctor.
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For more information, talk to your doctor. If you think the problem is serious, call your doctor right away.

This tool has been reviewed by doctors and is for general educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. The information in this tool should not be relied upon to make decisions about your health. Always consult your family doctor with questions about your individual condition(s) and/or circumstances. Source: American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Health & Medical Guide. Dallas: Word Publishing; 1996.