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How Do You Treat a Swollen Eyelid? 15 Causes

What causes a swollen eyelid?

Swollen EyelidApplying a compress: Put a clean, wet cloth on your eyes twice a day for 15 minutes. Use a warm (hot) compress if the problem is due to a stye.

You get a swollen eyelid when the area around your eyes gets filled with fluid. The condition is also commonly called “puffy eyes.”

Your eyelids might swell due to local infection, trauma, or any other illness, where fluid builds up in the entire body. Depending on the cause, one or both eyelids may become swollen.

Why is my upper eyelid swollen?

Your eyelids can become swollen due to many reasons, such as the following:

  1. Stye or chalazion: Stye and chalazion are small bumps on anyone or both of your upper or lower eyelids that are caused by infection of the oil glands of your eye. A stye looks like a boil or a pimple. Although a stye is formed on the external surface of your eyelid, a chalazion is located inside the eyelid.
  2. Conjunctivitis (pink eye): Your eyes may be swollen due to an infectious eye disease known as conjunctivitis where your eyes become red and watery.
  3. Dacryocystitis: Blockage of the tear glands draining into the nose can make your eyelids swell and result in the watering of eyes.
  4. Cosmetic use: Not removing eye makeup at night can irritate the delicate area around the eye and cause swollen eyelids. 
  5. Allergy: Allergy to insect bites (bees, bugs), dust, certain eyeliners or mascaras, and reaction to certain medicines can cause your eyelids to swell.
  6. Sinusitis: Recurrent inflammation of the nose that may be associated with swelling of the eyelids.
  7. Lack of sleep: Not sleeping well the previous night can make your eyes look puffy the next morning.
  8. Trauma: A heavy blow to the eye can rupture the small blood vessels under your eyelid and make your eyelids swollen. 
  9. Corneal ulcer: A corneal ulcer (also known as keratitis) is an open sore on the clear outer layer of the front of your eye (cornea).
  10. Orbital and periorbital cellulitis: An infection of the deeper tissues of the eyes that spreads to the skin around your eyes.
  11. Ocular herpes simplex: A viral infection that causes your eyes to become red, swollen, and painful.
  12. Thyroid problem: An aggravated form of hyperthyroidism known as Grave’s disease can lead to an eye condition known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy, which is characterized by protruding eyeballs and puffy eyes.
  13. Blepharitis: Blepharitis is an inflammatory eyelid disease that causes the eyelids to become red, swollen, and itchy. Dandruff-like scales form on the eyelashes.
  14. Kidney problem: The inability of the kidneys to retain proteins in the body causes fluid build-up in the body leading to swelling all over the body, including the face and eyelids.
  15. Serious liver or heart problem: If there is a serious problem in your liver or heart, it leads to water retention in the body and causes puffy eyes.

How do you treat a swollen eyelid?

Treatment of the swollen eyelids will depend on the cause. Until you can see your doctor, you can try resolving the swelling of your eyelids at home by

  • Applying a compress: Put a clean, wet cloth on your eyes twice a day for 15 minutes. Use a warm (hot) compress if the problem is due to a stye.
  • Cleaning the eyes: Clean your eyes with sterile water or saline solution if there is a discharge from the eyes. 
  • Avoiding contact lenses: Avoid wearing contact lenses, which might irritate the eyelids further.
  • Avoiding eye makeup: Avoid applying eyeliner or mascara until the eyelid swelling goes away.
  • Use of over-the-counter eye drops: Over-the-counter eye drops contain antihistamines that help in treating eye allergies and relieve the redness and itching.
  • Getting adequate sleep: Get adequate sleep to give rest to your eyes if you feel that the cause of the swollen eyelids is exhaustion and lack of sleep.

When should you see a doctor for swollen eyelid?

A simple eyelid swelling usually resolves within 24 hours. If it does not go away with simple home remedies as described above, you should see a doctor. You should also visit a doctor if:

Your doctor will examine your eyes and take your complete history. He will prescribe you antibiotics in the form of eye drops or oral pills if he/she suspects infection. 

Depending on the cause, your doctor might even advise you on some medical procedure or eye surgery, e.g., Dacryocystorhinostomy for dacryocystitis.


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