Swollen Eyelids Causes and Treatment

Swollen Eyelids: Causes, Pictures, Symptoms And Treatment

Swollen eyelids are a condition where one/both of the top and bottom eyelids undergo enlargement. This condition can be the result of the accumulation of too much fluid or eye tissue inflammation. When the body is fighting an infection or suffering an injury or allergy, swollen eyelids can be the result.

Symptoms accompanying the swollen eyelids are many including eye irritation, obstruction in vision on account of swelling, and redness and inflammation of the eyelid as well as the conjunctiva. Excessive production of water or tear in the eyes can also cause swollen eyelids. Eye dryness and eye pain can also be an accompanying symptom.

Swollen eyelids can be chronic or short-term depending on the mildness or severity of the condition. In case the condition appears in a gradual or sudden way, it should never be ignored in either case. This is because swollen eyelids can also be a sign of a medical condition. Most people will encounter the condition sooner or later. Apart from discomfort, impaired vision, and disfiguration, there are other reasons why you need to seek help. Swollen eyelids accompanied by certain other symptoms such as fever or vision problems mean a serious underlying medical condition.

Swollen Eyelids: A Clinical Picture

Top Eyelid

Swollen Top Eyelids
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The upper eyelid maintains the moisture on the surface of the eyes and evades injuries for this sensitive organ. Eyelids blink as a reflex and this can cause secretions of the lacrimal gland or external particles to enter the eye. If there is a swelling on the upper eyelid, this can cause pain and discomfort. What is the general cause of the swollen eyelid? It could be anything from infections to allergic reactions and use of cosmetic products and too much oil.

Lower Eyelids

Swollen lower Eyelids
Photo By: Wendell Fisher/ CC BY

These play a vital role in protecting the eyes. They help by keeping dust and other outside objects from coming into the eye. Tears and water are generally released to keep the eye lubricated. Swollen bottom eyelids are usually the result of factors such as infection, inflammation, obstruction of the eye-moistening glands, allergies as well as conditions like edema.

Causes of Swollen Eyelids


Photo By: Rosemarie Voegtli/ CC BY

This is one of the leading conditions of inflammation of the eyelids. This condition is also called as pink eye. It happens when there is an infection in the conjunctiva which can be transferred from one person to another. Conjunctivitis leading to swollen eyelids is generally accompanied by itchiness of the eyelids. The conjunctiva is the clear lining of the surface of the eye. The eye appears tinged in red also and factors causing this condition include:

  • Allergies
  • Environmental irritants
  • Chemicals in eye medications
  • Viral or bacterial infections


Photo By: Club table/ CC BY

This is a condition in which there is inflammation around the eyelids as the glands situated near the bottom of the eyelashes become swollen. This is characterized by pain and swelling. The skin becomes flaky, and eyelash loss may also occur.

Orbital Cellulitis

This is a rare, serious condition where the eye tissues become infected. A most common cause of this is Staphylococcus aureus. Inflammation and pain result when this reaches the eye cavity.


Medically, it is known as Hordeolum. This is an infection of the oil glands. Bacteria enters these glands situated close to the eyelashes. This causes swelling of the eyelid accompanied by pus formation, lumps, and pain.


When the meibomian gland is blocked by an infection, the eyelids become swollen and soft. Because of the obstructions, the secretion of the gland cannot find a way out resulting in eyelid inflammation. While it appears like a stye in the initial stages, it later becomes a sebaceous cyst which would form away from the eyelid’s edge.

Ocular Herpes/Cold Sore

This is an infection caused by herpes. It leads to corneal scarring and the inflammation of the eyelids. Herpes is from a family of the virus including cold sores, chicken pox, shingles, and genital herpes. Along with the swollen eyelids, additional problems occur such as painful sores, blurred vision, and swelling of the eyelids.


Allergens are a leading cause of swollen eyelids. When they come into play, the immune system reacts and the condition that develops can even take your life.

Allergens include:

  • Environmental particles
  • Pet Dander
  • Dust mite
  • Pollen
  • Cosmetic and eye products
  • Eye drops
  • Contact lens solutions
  • Drugs
  • Insect Bites

Medical Complications

Medical conditions associated with swollen eyelids include:

  • Graves Disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Organ Failure
  • Ocular Shingles

Graves Disease

When a person is suffering from Graves Disease or thyroid diseases, swelling of the eyelid is common. In addition, the former disease can cause eyes to bulge, blurring and doubling vision and reducing eye movements.


Certain conditions such as fluid retention or preeclampsia during pregnancy may also cause swelling in the eyes and the body.

Organ Failure

Finally, organ failure is associated with fluid retention and eyelid inflammation.

Ocular Shingles

When the VZV strikes during shingles, swollen eyelids may be the result.

Environmental Factors

Going out in the sun without protection can also cause swollen eyelids. Sunburns may be accompanied by eyelid swelling due to prolonged exposure to sunlight. Having eye surgery or eye injury can also be a factor.

Sinus and Renal Problems

Sinus and renal problems are also associated with swollen eyelids.


swollen eyelids Causes, Pictures, Symptoms And TreatmentEyelids that are swollen do not make to any easier for the person to see. Apart from this swollen eyelids can also be accompanied by:

  • Pain in the eye
  • A headache
  • Redness
  • Itchy Eyes
  • Blurred Vision
  • Fever
  • Eyelash Loss
  • Nephritic syndrome
  • Crusty material developing on the eyelash
  • Scale formation
  • Puffiness and irritation
  • Discharge
  • Tenderness
  • Inflammation
  • Facial swelling
  • Other symptoms include difficulty moving the eyeball
  • Bleeding from the eye
  • Droopy eyelids
  • Increase in tear production
  • Swelling and facial pain

Once you experience a head trauma, you can also feel tightness in the throat and a severe head pain.


swollen eyelid treatment
Photo By: Teresa Trimm/CC BY

Based on what is causing the swollen eyelid, treatment may be prescribed. For example, if an allergen is a cause, the physician will prescribe antihistamines. Eye drops or oral medication may be used along with mild steroid drops.

Lubrication may also be recommended in the form of artificial tears.

For viral conditions or diseases caused by infection, medications need to be given to kill the pathogen. Antibiotics or antiviral medication may be used.

Another important point is to avoid rubbing the eyes and use gauze pads soaked in milk to soothe the eyes. Cold or hot compress or potato slices can also prove beneficial. Cucumber slices work well because they are rich in silicon, water, caffeic acid, and ascorbic acid. This can reduce water retention too.

Home remedies include cold tea bag (which can include green or black tea leaves that contain caffeine and tannic acid reducing the retention of fluid. Don’t wear makeup as this can irritate the eyes still further. Sleep with an elevated head to reduce fluid from collecting in the eyes during the night. Ice water is also a wonderful cure because it constricts the blood vessels and reduces swelling. Another point is your diet- eat less salt because high sodium diet increases fluid retention. A puffy or swollen eyelid is a real problem and needs to be treated as per the cause. Causes can exist from severe infection to fluid retention. Swelling generally leaves in 24 hours.

But to reduce swelling with compresses is not the only cure. There are many reasons why your eyelids could be swollen. How the eyelid is treated for being puffy or swollen is entirely dependent on the cause. Reasons for swollen eyelids may include bug bite, allergies, pink eye, fluid retention, stye, cyst, pre-orbital or orbital cellulitis. Discoloration may also result from trauma or injury, Swollen eyes or eyelids can be caused by many medical conditions across eye cancer to Graves’ disease. To prevent complications, you need to check with a doctor in case swelling lasts lower than 24 to 48 hours.

What You Can Do Immediately

Treat swollen eyelids at home, especially when caused by allergies, lack of sleep, stress, allergies or more. Swelling generally lessens in 24 hours. Use saline solutions in case there is a discharge. Using cool compress over the eyes like washcloths that are wet can be a solution too. Chilled tea bags or caffeine over the eyes can also cause swelling. Another step forward is to increase the height at which your head is resting to decrease the retention of fluid. If the tired eyes are caused by allergic reactions, antihistamine or anti-allergic eyewash can be treated. Prescription eye drops can also benefit the body. Orally taking antihistamines may also help.

Treating a Swollen Eyelid

If the eyelids are painful and tender while touching, the cause is cyst, stye or infection. Determine the causes of swollen eyelids as curative or management options depend on what is causing it. In case the lower or upper eyelid is inflamed, it can be the result of cyst/chalazion. This swells in the lid’s middle portion. Cysts take some time to clear and develop into a massive bump. For relief, another certain cure is holding a heated cloth that is wet over the eyes. Warmth helps with oil secretion and blocking. One can carry it out 4-5 times in a day. Cysts that persist should be medically treated and drained.

Styes form like a minor infection at the eyelash or base of the eyelid. It is internal or external and shows well-defined red bumps. Once pus is secreted from the stye, the eye gets better. One can use a warm compress to promote healing and bring on relief. It takes a couple of weeks before it clears. Avoid using makeup when there is a stye as this can lead to reinfection.

Pink eye is due to a viral, allergic, or bacterial infection that leads to surface eye inflammation. It can commence from one eye and spread to both. Often, sticky coating or pus will be seen on the eyelashes and in the eye corner. One can also clean the crusty and sticky eyelids with cotton and lukewarm water. Eyes can recover on their own without treatment. Avoid touching the eye and also ensure your pillowcase is clean. Stop using contact lenses and eye cosmetics, too.

If there is an infection in the skin, it results in cellulitis. The skin surrounding the eye reddens and hurts. This requires antibiotics for relieving swelling. Cellulitis impacts the legs but takes place just about anywhere. Symptoms that initiate emergency treatments include nausea, dizziness, shaking, confusion, high temperature, vision changes or double visions and inability to engage in eye movements.

Depending on the cause, swollen eyelids can take a long time to clear up from a few days to many weeks. If allergic reactions are triggering it, be clear that you need to stay indoors. If swollen eyelids are on account of tears, wash your face before sleeping at night.

To cure swollen eyelids and seek medical care if there are symptoms, check the pain in the eye, blurred or distorted vision, worsening sight, sudden floaters, a feeling something is stuck in the eye or the inability to move eye muscles.

Certain conditions leading to swollen eye need medical care. Cancers of the eye can push the eye forward, ensuring it is like an eyelid swollen when there is pressure from the cancer. Only doctors diagnose what causes the swelling of the eyelids. It helps to note differences in symptoms that occur before or after, absence or presence of pain, identifiable swellings or limps and the inability for eye muscle movements or vision changes. Many individuals seek to get treatment immediately, so one can access and accurately diagnose the condition. Check if the cyst, blocked tear duct or other swelling causes do not clear up in a week or so.


In the ultimate analysis, what matters is the cause of the swelling. If it a minor cause like pink eye or cold sore, OTC eye drops can be fine. But if the swollen eyelids are indicative of life-threatening allergies or medical complications, you need to seek medical help immediately. It is better to get a doctor to examine the eyelid inflammation for best outcomes.

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