Tingling in the face can happen for a variety of reasons. The tingling may be a temporary sensation due to a short term health issue, or it might be a symptom of an underlying condition.

Doctors may refer to the tingling sensations as paresthesia.

Here we look at possible causes, diagnosis, and treatment options.

There are several possible causes of tingling in the face, including the following:

Medications

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A tingling sensation in the face may result from medications that affect nerve function.

Certain medications can affect nerve function. Although the symptoms will usually resolve once a person stops taking the medication, nerve damage may be permanent in rare cases.

People undergoing treatment for HIV, AIDs, or cancer may be more at risk of experiencing tingling in the face due to their medications. Other medications that can affect nerve function include:

  • drugs for heart conditions or blood pressure
  • thalidomide
  • medicines for infections, such as fluoroquinolones
  • anti-alcohol drugs
  • dapsone (Aczone), a treatment for skin conditions

Nerve-related side effects of medications may include:

  • tingling sensations
  • weakness
  • other unusual sensations, such as burning or prickling, which may begin in the hands and feet
  • numbness

Bell's palsy

Bell's palsy is a type of cranial neuropathy that results from the inflammation of a nerve in the face. It causes temporary paralysis to one side of the face.

People may notice the following symptoms in the face:

  • drooping on one side of the face
  • distorted face
  • drooling
  • weakness
  • pain around the ear and jaw
  • ringing in the ears
  • headaches
  • dry eyes or mouth
  • dizziness
  • difficulty using the mouth to speak, eat, or drink
  • twitching or involuntary movements

Bell's palsy can affect anyone, but it is more common in people between the ages of 15 and 60 years. It affects about 40,000 people in the United States each year.

People with diabetes or upper respiratory conditions, such as the flu, have a higher risk of getting Bell's palsy.

Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that affects the central nervous system. Tingling and numbness in the face are among the possible symptoms of MS. People may also experience these sensations in other parts of the body, such as the hands or feet.

The symptoms of MS can vary from person to person but may include:

Risk factors for developing MS include both genetic and environmental factors.

Shingles

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A person with shingles may experience tingling, numbness, or a burning sensation on the skin.

People can develop shingles if they have had chickenpox in the past, and the virus reactivates after lying dormant in the body. Shingles usually affects a small area on one side of the face or body. Symptoms include:

  • tingling
  • numbness
  • fever, chills, and headaches
  • itchiness
  • a red rash
  • pain
  • a burning sensation on the skin

People who are more at risk of getting shingles include older adults and those with a weakened immune system.

Stroke

Tingling or numbness in the face can be a symptom of a stroke. The acronym FAST can help people identify the warning signs of a stroke quickly:

Face: One side of the face is drooping, and smiling becomes lopsided

Arms: Weakness in the arms, and inability to keep them raised above the head

Speech: Difficult to understand or slurred speech

Time to call 911: Seek emergency medical help, even if the symptoms go away

Trigeminal neuralgia

Irritation of the trigeminal nerve can lead to trigeminal neuralgia, a condition that causes intense pain in the face. People may experience a stabbing or electric shock sensation on one side of their face.

People may feel tingling in the face before experiencing frequent bursts of pain. Medications can help a person manage the condition.

Hemiplegic migraine

Hemiplegic migraine is a rare type of migraine that causes one side of the face or body to become weak. It can also cause tingling or numbness in the face. Other symptoms include:

  • headaches
  • vision problems
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever
  • increased sensitivity to light and sound

Nerve damage

Nerve damage, also called neuropathy, can happen as a result of illness or injury.

People are at a higher risk of getting nerve damage if they have the following conditions:

  • diabetes
  • autoimmune disease
  • severe infections
  • high blood sugar levels

Genetics can also contribute to a person's risk of nerve damage.

Focal neuropathy affects a single nerve, and people may notice symptoms in one area of the body, such as the face. Symptoms can include:

  • tingling sensations
  • inability to move one side of the face
  • an aching behind the eyes
  • vision problems, such as loss of focus or double vision
  • issues with hearing
  • pain in the back, thighs, or chest area

Epilepsy and seizures

Although it is rare, people with epilepsy sometimes experience tingling or numbness in the face or other parts of the body during a partial seizure.

Symptoms can also include:

  • muscle jerking
  • nausea
  • dilated pupils
  • sweating

Other causes

Tingling in the face can also be due to other conditions, such as:

  • cold and sinus infections
  • anxiety and stress
  • an allergic reaction
  • neurodegenerative conditions
  • a head injury

A doctor may diagnose the cause of face tingling by carrying out a physical examination, which will typically include reflex, sensation, and balance tests. They may also use medical tests to help them diagnose the underlying condition that is causing the tingling.

Tests may include:

  • CT or MRI scans to show images of the brain or face
  • electromyography, which is a test to show the electrical activity of muscles
  • X-rays or ultrasounds of the heart and blood vessels
  • an electroencephalogram (EEG) to show brain wave activity

If people are experiencing tingling in the face for unknown reasons, or their symptoms do not pass, they should see a doctor.

Anyone who notices signs of a stroke or has any severe symptoms should seek emergency medical help or call 911 or their local emergency number.

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Reducing stress may help the body to recover.

Treatment will vary depending on the condition causing face tingling. Stress can increase pain levels in certain conditions, so reducing stress and focusing on relaxation can help the body recover.

If people have a skin condition such as shingles, applying a cool compress can help soothe the pain. Taking an oatmeal bath or using calamine lotion may also help.

People with Bell's palsy can take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen. Wearing an eye patch and using eye drops can also help protect the affected eye.

A team of healthcare professionals can work alongside people with MS to create a treatment program to help manage the condition.

People with epilepsy can help lower the likelihood of seizures by ensuring that they get enough sleep.

Maintaining a healthful lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise can help reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health conditions that can lead to nerve damage and other complications.

Reducing stress and taking time to relax may also help minimize the risk of certain conditions that can cause tingling in the face.

Tingling in the face can often be a temporary sensation due to short term conditions. People may be able to recover from the condition with at-home treatments and plenty of rest.

In some cases, tingling in the face may be a symptom of an underlying condition that will require further treatment.