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What are the Common Causes of Eyelid Swelling?

By Lauren Romano
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Eyelid swelling can create panic for fear that whatever caused the swelling is going to cause damage to the eyes. In addition to being red and puffy, swollen eyelids can feel uncomfortable, itchy, and painful. It's a sensitive area that is best treated by a medical professional as soon as possible. Several common causes of swelling in the eyelids include allergies, pink eye, and an insect bite.

Women in their third trimester of pregnancy may experience some eyelid swelling, especially first thing in the morning. The entire face may puff up due to dilated blood vessels and fluid retention. To reduce this swelling, a woman can put cold spoons on each eyelid for a few minutes at a time.

Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, can also make the eyelids swell. Pink eye affects the membrane of the eyelid and part of the eye, and the inflammation affects the blood vessels. This condition is incredibly contagious, so it's best for sufferers to go see a medical professional as soon as possible for treatment.

Allergies, including hay fever, food allergies, and drug allergies, can also cause this problem. It may also occur if it's the site of an insect bite or sting. Another possibility is an allergic reaction to a specific type of makeup or hair product.

A sty, which is a painful red lump on the eyelid, can cause the eyelid to swell. It can also cause redness and tearing in the eye, but usually doesn't interfere with the ability to see. To get rid of the sty, a person can apply a warm washcloth to it several times a day. If it doesn't go away in four or five days, it's for the person best to see a healthcare professional.

Sinusitis affects the areas around the nose, causing the cavities swell, become irritated, and get inflamed. The entire area around the eyes can swell and can also cause pain and soreness in that area.

Although some types of eyelid swelling don't typically affect the actual eyes, there's a possibility that it could happen. To prevent further problems and to ease the discomfort, pain and puffiness, it's best for anyone who has this symptom to see a medical professional as soon as possible, especially if the swelling or pain becomes severe. If the condition turns out to be contagious, getting treatment can also prevent unknowingly passing it on to others.

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Discussion Comments
By anon344539 — On Aug 10, 2013

I am not sure if when your eyes itches and swell up it means your eyelashes are growing in the wrong place! Is it true or not?

By anon323559 — On Mar 06, 2013

I think I have a wheat intolerance because a naturopath told me and I get lip swelling and eyelid swelling when I wake up.

Now, when I cry, my lips go all red and puffy and my eyelids on the top of my eye area swell up and my lips feel heavy and puffy.

It's annoying because I can't eat wheat. Otherwise I'll get windy and get really stinky. It's really embarrassing, especially with the swollen lips and eyes. It annoys me so much. I am so happy to see these posts. They help me see that it's not just me who gets it.

By anon306899 — On Dec 02, 2012

This is my story. It happens every few weeks. I wake up and my top eye lid is swollen and what we call bags under the eye is swollen. It only happens in my right eye. I'm talking about it is swollen so big. Then it waters and starts to itch. I have read so much on the internet trying to figure out whats wrong with me.

I went to the store to get stuff for stye, allergies, etc. What I end up getting was Visine A.C.It's in a green and white box. Within the hour, my eye was almost back to normal. I don't know what cause this but I'm so glad this has helped me.

The next time this happens, I will post a picture so people will see what my eye looks like. I don't know if this will work for other people. All I know is this has helped me.

By anon294875 — On Oct 03, 2012

I don't think anyone can help my swollen eyelids because they have been there for over 20 years and nothing seems to help, not even sleep, eating right, exercise, etc.

I am allergic to mold and yeast and although I have steered away from these, I can't help but eat foods that contain them. It's impossible. I have been told by an allergist that this took a long time to develop, therefore it will take a long time to get rid of. Very encouraging -- not!

I have just about given up and I don't think I will ever look normal again.

By SarahSon — On Aug 30, 2011

I have worn contact lenses for many years and never had any problems. I started using a different kind of cleaner and ended up getting an eye infection.

For some reason, my eyes were sensitive to this new cleaner, and my eyelids got swollen and itchy. A few days after I quit using this new cleaner, and went back to my old one, the swelling went away.

By bagley79 — On Aug 30, 2011

I am just plain miserable in the spring and fall. I am always ready for the first frost so my allergies are not so bad.

On days when the pollen count is really high, my eyelids get red, puffy and swollen. Many times when my upper eyelid swelling is really bad, I will get asked if I have a cold. My reply is always, "No - just allergies".

I have tried getting shots before, but still get symptoms a lot of the time. When you get a cold, the symptoms don't usually last very long. With allergies, you feel like they will never go away. When I wake up in the morning and my eyes are swollen, I know it is going to be a long day.

By Sara007 — On Aug 29, 2011

My kid ended up coming home with a swollen eyelid a few days ago and apparently she caught pink eye from one of the kids in her class. I was actually really angry that another parent would send their kid to school with something so contagious.

Basically, pink eye spreads like crazy. If one child touches their eye, then a pencil, the next kid to touch that pencil and then there eye gets it. Considering how much kids are always not washing their hands it doesn't surprise me at all how fast it moves around a school.

If your child has swollen eyelids please take them to a doctor and don't let them go to school until you know what is wrong.

By lonelygod — On Aug 29, 2011

Seasonal allergies always cause my eyelids to swell in the springtime. I find that taking my antihistamine pills and resting with a cold washcloth on my face really helps. If the swelling gets really bad I sometimes cover an ice cube with cloth and hold it against my eyes until I get some relief.

I honestly think that the worst thing about eyelid swelling is that it makes it hard to sleep comfortably. For myself I feel like my eyelids are too heavy and I can't rest properly. Plus I usually get a bit of itchiness to go with it which drives me nuts.

By wavy58 — On Aug 28, 2011

Sometimes when I mow my yard, my eyes swell. If I mow during the spring when pollen has settled on everything under the sun, it’s especially bad.

Last spring I mowed, and I had a bad allergic reaction. I couldn’t stop sneezing. My nose ran constantly, my sinuses became tender and full, and my eyes swelled. Tears kept running out of them, and when I rubbed them, they swelled even more.

I have found that taking an antihistamine before I mow helps stave off my allergies. If I do this, then I still might sneeze a little, but my eyes won’t swell.

By kylee07drg — On Aug 28, 2011

I hate it when I get a mosquito bite on my eyelid while sleeping. This is one of the worst places to be itching and swollen.

One night, I had planned to get up the next morning and go apply for a job. When I awoke, one eye was swollen almost shut because of a mosquito bite. I knew I couldn’t go looking like that, so I had to wait a couple of days.

It’s also a bad spot to apply anti-itch cream to, because anything you put on your eyelid can soak through to your eyeball. I put aloe vera on it, and in just a short while, my eye started burning.

By StarJo — On Aug 27, 2011

@lighth0se33 - The same thing happens to me. Though nothing seems to take away the swelling completely, I know of a few tricks to make it less noticeable.

I put cucumber slices on my closed eyelids and leave them there for a few minutes. The cooling effect feels so nice, and they do seem to take some of the puffiness out.

I can mask my puffy eyes by using a white-silver eyeshadow. This shade makes the eyes appear to be open wider and alert. It can trick people into thinking nothing is wrong.

I have heard of some types of eye cream that are designed to hide the fact that you have been crying. I have never tried any, but it’s worth a shot.

By lighth0se33 — On Aug 26, 2011

My eyelids swell sometime during the night if I have a crying spell before bed. Even if the temporary swelling and redness that occurs while I’m crying goes away before I go to sleep, something happens during the night that makes them rise up again.

My mother could always tell when I had been crying about something by simply looking at my eyes in the morning. It was very hard to hide. Splashing my eyes with cold water felt good, but it did little to lessen the puffiness.

Does anyone else have this problem? What are some things I could do to make it disappear?

By backdraft — On Aug 25, 2011

I work as a chemist and we often have to deal with the effects of chemical burns on the skin. Once I was working with a sample that exploded and I got a dangerous substance all over my face.

I ran immediately to the eye wash station and flushed my eyes out for over 10 minutes. I didn't loose any vision but my eye lids were swollen for several days. I went to a doctor and he told me I was lucky to have kept my eyesight. Apparently if the chemical had hit me directly in the eye I could suffer from permanent vision loss. That was an important reminder of why chemists wear safety goggles.

By whiteplane — On Aug 25, 2011

I must have had pink eye a dozen times when I was a kid. It seemed like any person who came down with it in my class would inevitably pass it along to me.

This was a huge stress for my mom who had to deal with my symptoms on an almost yearly basis. I got used to being infected with it the last few times, but the first few times, when I was very young, I was almost hysterical over my pink eye. It can be really scary for a little kid.

Eventually my school instituted a program that encouraged hand washing and kept kids with pink eye from coming into contact with other students. It seemed to do a lot to reduce the rate of infection. I only go it once or twice after that and I have been lucky enough to avoid it entirely in my adult life.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Aug 24, 2011

A few years back I got a bad case of poison ivy on my eyelids. Apparently my eye lids had come in direct contact with the plant. I got it on a few other parts of my body but it was worst on my eyelids for sure.

They were very red and very swollen. My left eye I could barely open. I don't usually go to the doctor for poison ivy but I did this time and he prescribed a topical steroid to help fight the rash.

It got better after a few days and was mostly gone after a week. I didn't have any lasting damage but it was pretty scary for a while. Any time there is a problem with your eyes you worry that they will never work again.

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