Swollen Eyelids

image001Swollen eyelids are a common phenomenon, which is the result of excess fluid accumulation around the eyes. The swelling can involve both the upper and lower eyelids. The eyelids are very thin and contain muscle, fat, nerves, vessels and connective tissue. Despite their thin and fragile appearance, swelling can easily occur for a variety of reasons. Here lists some possible causes of this discomfort, including infections, which generally cause more pain than any others.

Causes of Swollen Eyelids

In addition to swelling, itching may also occur and excessive tear production may obscure the vision. Discharge is one of the accompanied symptoms, which can be thin and watery or thick and crusty resulting in the eyelids sticking together. It is important to find out the root causes of swollen eyelids, some of which include irritation and allergy, trauma, infections, hormonal fluctuations and rarely tumors.

1. Causes of Painful Swollen Eyelids



Eye Injuries

There are numerous small blood vessels around the eyes and minor trauma can cause swelling to occur. Injury to the blood vessels along with the tissues of the eyelid result in swelling and bruising giving that familiar “shiner” appearance.


Also known as “pink eye”, this is the most common cause of eye swelling and results from irritation and/or infection. Viruses cause watering and burning along with lid swelling. Bacterial conjunctivitis and allergic conjunctivitis cause redness, discharge along with swelling.


This is the common term for an acute infection of the oil glands of the eyelids, as a result of the inflamed and infected meibomian gland. Symptoms include a red and painful bump along the eyelid. Treatments contain a warm compress and sometimes antibiotic drops can help.


Think of this as a chronic stye. The condition is also due to a blocked meibomian gland. This is less common, but causes notable swelling of the eyelid. Treatment requires a trip to the doctor or eye specialist.


This condition results from low-grade inflammation of the eyelids. It can be caused by makeup, allergies or other irritants that come in contact with the eyelids. Painful and swollen eyelids are its common symptoms, as well as drop of eyelashes and flaky eyelid skin. Treatment includes proper hygiene, warm compresses and gently washing with baby soap on a daily basis.

Orbital Cellulitis

Bacteria can cause infections around the eye. Common symptoms of orbital cellulitis include pain and swelling of the eyelids and area around the eye, redness, and discharge at times. More severe symptoms include fever, pain when moving the eye and vision loss. Orbital cellulitis can be quite serious and deserves immediate medical attention.

Ocular Herpes

Herpes is a family of viruses that cause illnesses such as chicken pox, cold sores, genital herpes and ocular herpes. Symptoms include a painful blistery rash that can appear on the eyelids and area around the eyes and forehead. When a blister appears on the nose (Hutchinson’s sign) it is an indication that the herpes virus is infecting the front surface of the eye as well. Seek medical care from a physician or eye specialist if any suspicion of this condition exists.

Graves' Disease

The thyroid gland is important in metabolism and an overactive thyroid gland can result in changes in the eyelids and fat around and behind the eye. The medical term is proptosis and the patient looks as though their lids are swollen and the eyes are popping out of their sockets. And some will experience double vision.


This is a rare cause of eyelid swelling. Certain tumors may appear on the eyelids and point to another more widespread problem. Examples include neurofibromatosis and skin cancers. Some solid organ cancers may at times spread throughout the body and appear as lumps under the skin.

2. Causes of Non-painful Swollen Eyelids



Fluid Retention

This is most notable in the morning upon waking. Body fluid redistributes during sleep and can leave the eyelids appearing puffy. Dietary intake of excessive salt can cause water retention and make the eyelids and face appear puffy. This also happens during the later stages of pregnancy and during hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle.


Allergies to environmental factors such as dust mites, pets and the outdoors commonly result in swollen itchy eyelids. This condition can be treated with antihistamines, cool compresses and OTC allergy eye drops.

Contact Lens Wear

Contact lens use can irritate the eyelids and result in swelling. Anything more than minor discomfort suggests something more serious is occurring and a visit to the eye doctor is warranted.

Home Remedies for Swollen Eyelids

Remedies are always directed at the underlying cause. The following lists some home choices and possible remedies that can help sufferers handle this condition. If symptoms worsen despite trying home remedies and following your doctor’s advice, you need to have a recheck doctor’s visit. Never self-prescribe or use another person’s prescription eye drops.

  • Applying cool a cool compress and avoiding rubbing the eyes can be helpful.
  • Remove contact lenses until all symptoms have resolved.
  • Splash cold water on the eyelids if itching is a problem.
  • Dry irritated eyes will respond to OTC allergy and moisturizing eye drops.
  • For severe allergic eye problems, your doctor may prescribe a steroid eye drop to alleviate the symptoms.
  • Infections such as conjunctivitis or ocular herpes require prescription antibiotic or antiviral eye drops.

Use preservative free eye drops and look for hypoallergenic makeup. Avoid scented lotion use on the face, particularly around the eyes. Consider allergy testing if you frequently experience itching, redness and swelling of the eyelids. Contact lens wearers need to use proper handling and cleaning techniques, and replace lenses on a regular basis.

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