Swollen eyelids are often the result of fluid accumulation in the thin layers of tissues surrounding your eyes. This type of edema, which causes puffy eyelids, can affect one or both eyes, depending on the cause. It may be accompanied by other symptoms such as itching, tearing, pain, tenderness, and redness. However, in many cases, temporary puffiness of the eyelids may result from lack of sleep, crying, hormonal changes related to pregnancy, and taking too much salt and sugar in the diet. Although swollen eyelids can be temporary and improve on their own, in some cases you will need to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Some of the common causes of swollen eyelids include:
- Allergies. Allergic reactions may be triggered by food, medications, or other environmental elements, causing puffiness of both eyelids. It may be accompanied by itching and redness, as well as other symptoms such as hives, thickening of the lips, tongue, and cheeks. With severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), choking and difficulty in breathing might also occur. This is a potentially life-threatening situation, and immediate medical help must be sought.
- Irritation from contact lenses or contact lens solutions. Dirty contact lenses of certain cleaning solutions may cause temporary irritation of the eyes and their lids.
- Blockage of ducts. Overproduction of fluids in the eye or infection can cause blockage of the ducts that drain in the eyelids, leading to eyelid swelling.
- Conjunctivitis. Inflammation of the conjunctiva (the exposed area of the eyeball) and the thin membrane lining the eyelid can cause itching, redness, and swollen eyelids.
- Blepharitis. Inflammation of the eyelid margin is usually caused by bacterial infection, leading to swelling.
- Styes. Bacterial infection of the sweat glands or oil-producing glands found at the base of your eyelashes leads to swelling, pain, redness and pus formation.
- Chalazion. This resembles a stye, but it tends to grow away from the edge of the lid. It is caused by blockage of the duct of the lubricating glands.
- Dermatitis of the eyelid. The skin of the eyelid may become itchy, swollen, red, wrinkled, and sometimes scaly, eyelids due to an allergic reaction.
- Systemic infection. Swelling of the eyelids sometimes occurs during a viral or bacterial infection of the body, such as flu.
Although swollen eyelids often improve without treatment, it is best to consult a doctor when the swelling does not go away after a couple of days or if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as pain.
- Avoid touching or rubbing your swollen eyelids.
- Avoid further irritation by not applying make-up on your eyelids.
- If possible, avoid wearing contact lenses temporarily until your symptoms get better.
- Avoid taking too much salt, caffeine, or alcohol.
- Get plenty of rest and sleep.
- Avoid known irritants or substances that may be causing allergic reactions.
- Apply cold compresses or wet cloths over the eyes twice a day.
- Try using over-the-counter antihistamines for allergies. These can also reduce itching and inflammation.
- For blepharitis, clean the eyelid with warm water and apply a warm compress over the eye for five minutes. Use a dilute solution of baby shampoo to cleanse the eyelid with a washcloth. Rinse with a clean, wet, warm washcloth then pat dry.
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