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Swelling of the eyelids appears to be a quite common symptom many people complain of. Naturally, they get worried, but most people do nothing and wait for the swelling to go down on its own.
Swelling of the eyelids appears to be a quite common symptom many people complain of. Naturally, they get worried, but most people do nothing and wait for the swelling to go down on its own.
Some people apply a warm cloth over the swelling, while others take an over-the-counter antihistamine like Benadryl, others Claritin, and those who are more anxious may start picking and squeezing their eyelids. Thus they aggravate the condition even more. 
You may be surprised to hear that there are over 70 causes of swollen eyelids. Some are quite common; others are extremely rare. If you want to avoid further complications of your swollen eyelid, you should see a medical professional and abstain from self-diagnosis and picking at your eyelids or applying any over-the-counter medications or so-called home-made treatments. [1]

Depending on the severity of your eyelid swelling, you may decide to consult some of the following medical professionals. You will not make a mistake by choosing a general practitioner, emergency physician, ophthalmologist or dermatologist. 

Keep in mind your diagnosis depends on the additional symptoms. Therefore you should report any physical symptoms to your healthcare provider as this will significantly narrow the diagnostical options and causes for your swollen eyelid. 
Your doctor will probably want to know some additional information to get a better picture of your condition [1]: 
  • The duration and severity of the eyelid swelling will help your healthcare provider understand whether you're dealing with acute or chronic eyelid swelling 
  • A brief family and your medical history to determine if any inherited disorders may be to blame 
  • If you had taken any medication 
  • If you had any allergic or adverse reactions before
  • If you had a cold or a runny nose recently to understand if the cause could be viral 
  • If you had redness or eye discharge to determine whether the cause could be bacterial

Possible causes of eyelid swelling are: 

1.    Allergic reactions

Hairspray, nail polish, make-up allergy, chemical allergy, animal and plant allergy could cause the swelling of the eyelids. Household pets most commonly cause animal allergies. [2]

2.    Blepharitis and chronic blepharitis.                                  

Blepharitis is an annoying reoccurring condition that causes inflammation of the eyelids. Several underlying conditions provoke blepharitis: 
  • Acne
  • Rosacea
  • Dry eyes 
  • Scalp dandruff 
  • Different infections such as staphylococcus bacteria

Symptoms indicating possible blepharitis include a burning feeling in the eye, a sense of the foreign body, excessive tearing and itching of the eye [3]. 

3. Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is a contagious infection of the eye. The infection could be viral or bacterial in origin but also triggered by an allergy, environmental irritants, contact lenses and eye drops, and ointments. Conjunctivitis usually causes swelling, itching, burning, and redness of the eye protective membrane, in the case of bacterial conjunctivitis greenish discharge from the eye. Conjunctivitis is highly contagious easily spreads from one person to another. [4]

4. Styes

Styes are sebaceous glands that are inflamed and located near the base of the eyelashes. Most commonly caused by staphylococcus bacteria, styes remind of pimples. Do not to squeeze or pierce them because you want to avoid spreading the bacteria over the entire eyelid. Washing your hands is essential when applying any treatment on the stye because dirty hands will spread the infection. Styes are quite common and they usually clear up on their own within a week or two. As a home treatment, you can apply a warm and sterile compress to the eyelid to speed up the inflammation process. [5, 6]   

5. Chalazion

Blocked oil glands cause Chalazion. Therefore, swelling of the upper or lower eyelid occurs. Additional symptoms that may appear are redness, pain, itchiness and lumpiness of the eyelid. Your medical provider may suggest you wait or apply hot compress, receiving corticosteroid injection or even a surgery depending on severity. [5,6] 

Some of the less common causes of eyelid swelling include: 

  • Cellulitis - inflammation of the skin or subcutaneous tissues. 
  • Orbital Cellulitis - a bacterial infection of the around eyes tissue. It causes redness and swelling around eyes and is usually a result of an underlying condition such as conjunctivitis, sinusitis or even diabetes. 
  • Herpes - either herpes simplex or herpes zoster virus. 
  • Kidney disorders such as:  
    • Nephrotic syndromecharacterized by high levels of protein in the urine, low levels of protein in the blood, swelling of the extremities and swelling around the eyes. The syndrome occurs due to the damage to the small blood vessels that filter waste and excess water. 
    • Glomerulonephritisinflammation of the small blood vessels.  
  • An unnoticed blunt trauma or an insect bite can also cause swelling of the eyelids.
  • Graves disease – Graves disease is an autoimmune condition and is related to your thyroid problem.
  • Eye cancer – swollen eyelid could be a symptom of eye cancer or lymphoma. Blurred vision, seeing slowly moving spots, or loss of vision may also appear as additional symptoms. 
Do not forget to tell your doctor if you have traveled recently. Behavioral changes during traveling increase the risk of some medical conditions related to the eyelid swelling such as conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva) and trachoma (chronic follicular conjunctivitis).
Also, a rare disease called chagas disease could be a cause of eyelid swelling in recent travelers. Chagas, also known as American trypanosomiasis, is an infection caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and is transmitted by insect bites or blood transfusions. Other symptoms related to the Chagas disease are chagoma - erythematous nodule at the bite sites, fever, anemia, one-sided facial swelling, tiredness, and headaches. [7

What Is Your First Line Of Defense When You Notice You Have A Swollen Eyelid? 

As we already mentioned in this article, under no circumstances engage in picking or squeezing your eyelid. The majority of eyelid swellings go away in a few days on their own. However, here are some tips you can apply at home if you have swollen eyelids: 

  • If you wear contact lenses, remove them. 
  • If you have a discharge accompanied with the eyelid swelling, try to rinse your eyes. In the case of allergies, cool water will do the trick. Make sure you have clean hands.  
  • After rinsing apply a cold or warm compress, which depends on your condition. Make sure your hands and the compress are clean.     
  • In case you are suffering from allergies, you can apply an antihistamine or steroid eye drops. However, you should not self-diagnose and your medical provider should confirm you are suffering from an allergy.

Call your eye doctor right away if swelling lasts longer than 48 hours and if you notice any of the following:

  • Pain in your eye
  • Blurry or decreased vision or seeing floaters or moving spots 
  • Sensation that something’s stuck inside your eye