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Swollen Eyelid: Causes, Treatment & Home Remedies

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Author : Dr Deepak Garg
swelling in eyes

Eyelid Swelling

Eyelids, even though they appear to be a part of the rest of our skin, have a bit of a complex anatomy as compared to other skin structures. It has multiple oil glands, accessory tear glands, sweat glands, eyelashes, and other cutaneous, subcutaneous, muscular tissues. These are soft tissues, thus any inflammation in these structures cause swelling of the eyelid. Another common reason for swollen eyelids is fluid retention in the eyelid soft tissues.

Thus, swollen eyelids are usually a symptom of a medical condition rather than a condition itself. Although the eyelid is less than a millimeter thick however, the tissues are highly stretchable thus eyelids have tendency to develop larger swellings.

Common causes of swollen eyelids

  1. Stye: There are multiple oil glands on the eyelid margin that continuously secrete the oil layer of our tear film. This oil is necessary to prevent the immediate evaporation or flowing of our tears; we need the tears to stay on the eye to keep it hydrated. Sometimes, these oil glands get blocked, preventing the secretion of oil. The opening becomes infected, resulting in a painful swelling known as a stye. There can be a single or multiple styes on either the upper or lower eyelid.
  2. Chalazion: Once the infection of a stye settles, the painless leftover lump is known as a chalazion. Chalazion does not have any specific symptoms except for swelling over the affected eyelid, and there is no medical treatment for it. Surgical drainage is required to reduce the swelling.
  3. Conjunctivitis: We are all aware of this condition, which is a common cause of red eyes. It can be either a bacterial or viral infection. In conjunctivitis, there is inflammation of the transparent layer called conjunctiva, which is adhered to the back part of the eyelid in contact with the ocular surface. Due to this inflammation, fluid retention in the eyelids can occur, leading to swelling, along with redness and sticky discharge.
  4. Orbital Cellulitis: Orbits are the sockets in the skull where our eyeballs are placed. Around our eyeballs, there are soft tissues and fat tissues present to cushion the eyeball, eye muscles, and maintain orbital volume. A portion of these tissues is also present just behind our eyelids. Orbital cellulitis is generally caused by an insect bite. Along with swelling of the eyelids, the patient experiences fever, and swelling may be noted on the white part of the eye as well. This condition requires immediate attention from a medical professional.
  5. Allergies: Allergies are caused by the body’s reaction to specific allergens that enter our body. Eye allergies are sometimes accompanied by a common cold, a runny nose, and rarely, by fever. Due to the allergic reaction, there can be fluid retention in the eyelid tissue, causing swollen eyelids. Patients generally experience itching of the eyes and a constant urge to rub them.
  6. Blepharitis: Inflammation of the eyelid itself also causes swelling, which can be uncomfortable. The eyelid margins appear swollen and red, accompanied by constant itching and discomfort. It is easily treated by prescribing eye drops, hot fomentation, and maintaining eyelid hygiene.

Eyelid swellings rarely cause blurred vision, as milder forms of swellings are typically outside the patient’s visual axis. However, larger swellings may exert pressure on the cornea, the frontmost part of the eye, leading to decreased vision.

Treatment options for reducing puffy eyelids:

The treatment of swollen eyelids depends on the cause. If it is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics are prescribed. If a skin infection is responsible for the swelling, then the skin should be treated rather than the eye per se. Prescription medications, such as topical ointments or oral medicines in certain cases, may be required.

If puffy eyelids result from allergies, your healthcare provider will prescribe antiallergics and may recommend cold compresses over the affected eyelids.

Home Remedies for Swollen Eyelids:

  • Use clean tissue paper or cotton balls to clean discharge from the eyelids.
  • Apply a cold compress for swollen eyelids by wrapping an ice cube in a clean cloth and placing it over the eye.
  • If you wear contact lenses, remove them immediately.
  • Slightly elevate your head using a pillow to reduce fluid retention.
  • Consult your eye doctor if symptoms persist even after a few days.

Swollen Eyelids Emergency Care:

  • Immediately remove contact lenses if you wear them.
  • If you experience double vision along with eyelid swelling, promptly seek assistance at the nearest ophthalmology clinic.
  • Report to an ophthalmology clinic if there is a sudden loss of vision.
  • Applying a cold compress to swollen eyes can help alleviate symptoms.
  • If you experience intense pain behind the eyeball, coupled with the affected eye appearing larger than the other, seek immediate attention at an ophthalmology clinic.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the fastest way to heal a swollen upper eyelid?

Ans. Applying a cold compress over the swelling will alleviate the symptoms caused by the swelling.

2. What causes sudden eyelid swelling?

Ans. The most common causes of sudden eyelid swelling can include, but are not restricted to, stye, chalazion, conjunctivitis, orbital cellulitis, and allergies.

3. Is heat or cold better for swollen eyelids?

Ans. It depends on the cause of the swelling. Generally, a cold compress helps reduce swelling.

4. What antibiotic is good for swollen eyelids?

Ans. Chloramphenicol is a commonly used antibiotic for swollen eyelids, however, always consult your eye doctor before self medicating.

5. When to see a doctor for swollen eyelid treatment?

Ans. Sudden loss of vision, pain behind the eye, inability to move the affected eye as freely as you were, fever, continuous discharge are some symptoms that need immediate medical attention.

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