Swollen Forehead

Facts about a Swollen Forehead

            A highly visible area on the face, it is understandable that many feel self-conscious when a swollen forehead suddenly seems to be the beacon that draws everyone’s attention upward.  In most cases, the cause is a simple matter that will clear up in just a few days.  There are, however, a few instances when it could signify a more serious condition.


            The forehead is part of the human head, which is the protective covering for the brain.  Foreheads can vary in size and shape; it has been associated with intelligence by appearance only.  A large forehead is thought by some to indicate high intelligence, while a small, narrow forehead would indicate lack of intelligence.  There is no scientific data to substantiate this type of characterization.  Mostly, the forehead is simply a layer of skin covering the upper skull.  The area contains nerves, blood vessels and muscles, which assist in making certain facial movements.  Certain emotions are expressed almost exclusively by the forehead and the eyes; puzzlement, surprise and worry.  Since the forehead is a very visible area on the faces of most people, having a swollen forehead can create embarrassment and self-consciousness.

            A thin layer of muscles and tissue lie underneath the skin of the forehead, which makes any swelling immediately noticeable.  In teens and those who suffer from chronic acne, the forehead can be a target for blemishes, pores in the skin that become clogged with oil, debris and dead skin cells.  With acute acne, some swelling may accompany the acne due to the irritation present.  This condition is generally not treated; it is the acne itself that is targeted for treatment.   When the acne disappears, so does the swelling that it had caused.


            If the swollen forehead is due to a single lump, there could be an abscess or sebaceous cyst present under the skin.  These cysts are generally soft and malleable to the touch, as they are filled with oil and dead skin cells.  Under no circumstances should they be “popped”.  Attempts to extract the contents of the lump through squeezing could cause the cyst to break under the skin, with the surrounding tissues reacting to the irritation by swelling.  Applying warm, moist compresses to the area several times per day will help the cyst to reach a head and drain on its own.  In some circumstances, it is best to see a doctor for the cyst in order to have it surgically drained.

            Because of the frontal position of the forehead, it is an area of the body that frequently suffers from sunburn.  A severe sunburn will cause the body’s defense mechanism to send additional blood to the area, complete with healing cells that will begin to heal the damage caused by excessive sun exposure.  Fluids are sent to the area to hydrate and some slight swelling may be noted.

            Rarely, the cause of a swollen forehead can be due to a condition called frontal sinusitis; a very serious issue.  Symptoms of the disorder will include headaches, fever, cough, pain in the forehead, and edema of the forehead when osteomyelitis sets in.  The condition may respond to analgesics, antibiotics and decongestants; in some cases when complications set in, surgery could be required to evacuate infection.  A highly dangerous complication of frontal sinusitis is Pott’s puffy tumor, an abscess of the frontal bone.

            Any swelling of the forehead should be examined to determine its cause.  If acne, cysts and sunburn can be completely ruled out as the cause for the swollen forehead, and the swelling is accompanied by fever, headache and sinus pain, a doctor visit should be scheduled to rule out any serious conditions.