Different nerves control facial feeling and muscle movement. One sided, or “unilateral,” facial numbness can occur when these nerves become damaged, inflamed, or compressed.
Some people may experience a complete loss of feeling in the affected side of the face. Others may experience a tingling sensation.
There are many different causes of right sided facial numbness. Some are more serious than others. Determining the cause of facial numbness is vital for receiving effective treatment for the underlying condition.
This article outlines the various causes and their associated treatments. We also provide advice on when to see a doctor.
Possible causes of right sided facial numbness include:
Early signs of a stroke include facial numbness, arm weakness, and slurred speech.
A stroke is an interruption in the blood supply to the brain. It is one of the most serious causes of right sided facial numbness.
The most common cause of stroke is a blocked blood vessel in the brain. These blockages are usually due to blood clots. A stroke can also occur when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and bleeds out.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year, stroke affects over 795,000 people in the United States. Around 140,000 of these people die as a result.
Early treatment for stroke can be lifesaving. The acronym FAST can help people memorize the symptoms of stroke.
FAST stands for:
- F: facial drooping or numbness
- A: arm weakness
- S: slurred speech
- T: time to call 911 for emergency medical help
Additional symptoms of stroke may include:
- loss of balance or coordination
- problems with vision
- problems walking
Treatment for stroke depends on the type. A person who experiences stroke as the result of a blood clot will usually receive a thrombolytic. These are drugs that help break up blood clots.
A person who experiences stroke as the result of a ruptured vessel may require surgery. The goal of surgery is to repair the damage and prevent further bleeding.
Often, stroke treatment reduces facial numbness.
Bell’s palsy is a type of facial paralysis that usually affects one side of the face.
Bell’s palsy develops in response to inflammation or compression of the nerves that control facial movement. The underlying cause of this nerve damage is not clear.
However, the condition tends to occur more frequently after a cold or the flu.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 40,000 people in the U.S. develop Bell’s palsy each year.
Although people of all ages can develop it, it is more common in people between the ages of 15 and 60.
Additional symptoms of Bell’s palsy include:
- jaw pain
- ringing in the ears
- loss of taste
- drooping of the eyelid or corners of the mouth
Most people recover from Bell’s palsy without treatment. However, treatment may help alleviate the symptoms faster.
Steroids may help reduce inflammation of the facial nerves and speed up recovery.
Taking over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can minimize any pain and discomfort. However, people should not take these alongside steroids.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition that involves damage to the nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. MS is a progressive condition, which means that it will usually worsen with time.
One of the most common symptoms of MS is numbness of the legs, arms, or face. Numbness may affect one or both sides of the body. Other symptoms include:
- blurred vision
- impaired coordination
- speech difficulties
There is currently no cure for MS.
However, taking disease modifying drugs such as steroids can help reduce symptom flare-ups. These drugs suppress the inflammation responsible for nerve cell damage.
The initial symptoms of a migraine episode can differ from person to person. Some people experience an aura shortly beforehand.
A migraine aura is a sensory disturbance, such as a change in vision or an unusual bodily sensation.
People with hemiplegic migraine have an aura that causes numbness and weakness on one side of the face, body, or both. Facial numbness may develop before, during, or after the migraine episode.
Additional symptoms may include:
- sensitivity to light
- problems with muscle coordination
Hemiplegic migraine is much less common than other types. It requires specialist treatment.
Standard migraine drugs called triptans are generally not suitable for hemiplegic migraine. Instead, a doctor may prescribe drugs such as valproic or topiramate, which help prevent migraine episodes.
Other possible causes
Some other possible causes of right sided facial numbness include:
- facial injury
- dental surgery
- allergic reactions
- nerve compression
When to see a doctor
If right sided facial numbness occurs after a head injury, seek immediate medical care.
Any time a person has facial numbness for an unknown reason, they should see a doctor to determine the cause.
See a doctor as soon as possible if right sided facial numbness:
- gradually worsens
- develops after a head injury
- spreads from the face to other areas of the body
Right sided facial numbness may involve a complete loss of sensation or a tingling feeling on the right side of the face. The extent and duration of the numbness may vary depending on the cause.
Several conditions can cause numbness on one side of the face. Some of these may resolve without treatment. Others may cause persistent, or “chronic,” facial numbness.
Stroke is the most common cause of facial numbness. In fact, facial numbness can be one of the earliest symptoms of stroke.
People should seek emergency medical care if the numbness is accompanied by other stroke symptoms. Early stroke treatment can be lifesaving.