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Facial Injuries


Topic Overview

At one time or another, everyone has had a minor facial injury that caused pain, swelling, or bruising. Home treatment is usually all that is needed for mild bumps or bruises.

It may be helpful to be familiar with the makeup of the facial bones to better understand facial injuries. See a picture of the facial bonesClick here to see an illustration..

Causes of facial injuries

Facial injuries most commonly occur during:

  • Sports or recreational activities, such as ice hockey, basketball, rugby, soccer, or martial arts.
  • Work-related tasks or projects around the home.
  • Motor vehicle crashes.
  • Accidental falls.
  • Fights.

In children, most facial injuries occur during sports or play or are caused by accidental falls. Minor facial injuries in young children tend to be less severe than similar facial injuries that occur in older children or adults. Young children are less likely to break a facial bone because they have fat pads that cushion their faces and their bones are more flexible. But young children are more likely to be bitten in the face by an animal.

Head injuries may occur at the same time as a facial injury, so be sure to check for symptoms of a head injury. For more information, see the topic Head Injuries, Age 3 and Younger or Head Injuries, Age 4 and Older.

Types of injuries

Facial injuries may be caused by a direct blow, penetrating injury, or fall. Pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising and swelling may develop soon after the injury. Acute injuries include:

  • A cut or puncture to your face or inside your mouth. This often occurs with even a minor injury. But a cut or puncture is likely to occur when a jaw or facial bone is broken. The bone may come through the skin or poke into the mouth.
  • Bruises from a tear or rupture of small blood vessels under the skin. See a picture of a bruise (contusion)Click here to see an illustration..
  • Broken bones (fractures). See an image of a fractured cheekboneClick here to see an illustration..
  • A dislocated jaw, which may occur when the lower jawbone (mandible) is pulled apart from one or both of the joints connecting it to the base of the skull at the temporomandibular (TM) joints. This can cause problems even if the jaw pops back into place.

Treatment

Treatment for a facial injury may include first aid measures, medicine, and in some cases surgery. Treatment depends on:

  • The location, type, and severity of the injury.
  • How long ago the injury occurred.
  • Your age, health condition, and other activities, such as work, sports, or hobbies.

When you have had a facial injury, it is important to look for signs of other injuries, such as a spinal injury, eye injury, or an injury to the mouth, such as a cut lip or injured tooth.

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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