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What are the Most Common Causes of Swollen Itchy Eyelids?

Autumn Rivers
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are various conditions that can cause swollen itchy eyelids, though fortunately most of them can be easily treated. One of the most common causes is a stye, which is an inflamed bump on the eyelid. Blepharitis is another possible cause, which is usually marked by swelling, redness, itchiness, and sometimes crust or ulcers. An eye allergy also often results in itchy, swollen eyelids, and can be caused by anything from makeup to different types of medical ointment.

A stye can appear suddenly in one eye, showing up as a small red bump on the lower or upper eyelid, often right where the lashes are. It typically looks like a pimple, and can cause the entire lid to look inflamed and feel itchy. The cause of this condition is usually an infected oil gland that is attached to an eyelash follicle, with staphylococcus typically being the bacteria that leads to the swollen itchy eyelids. Though the stye usually heals within about a week without any treatment, recovery can be faster when a warm compress is placed over it for a few minutes several times a day, which will cause it to drain faster and feel less tender. Patients may be tempted to pop or pick at the stye, but this can make it worse and could even cause the infection to spread to the other eye, so it is not recommended.

Blepharitis is typically caused by bacteria, the herpes virus, or an allergy. It usually presents as a red, swollen eyelid that itches and burns, and is sometimes accompanied by scales, ulcers, or crust. The treatment depends on the cause, so it is usually best to see an eye doctor in order to determine why the swollen itchy eyelids occurred. If the cause is a virus, antiviral medications may be given by mouth, while antibiotic ointment is usually offered when the cause is bacteria. Topical corticosteroids are usually necessary if the condition is caused by an eye allergy.

Some people discover they are allergic to certain substances only when their eyes swell up and become red and itchy. Many women find that this occurs after using a new makeup product, as they may be allergic to an ingredient, such as preservatives. Some antibiotic ointments used for medical treatment may also harm the eye if they get near it, while contact lens solution sometimes causes the same issue, depending on the ingredients. In most cases, patients can treat their swollen itchy eyelids by discontinuing use of the product and applying corticosteroids or taking antihistamines to relieve the swelling.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Autumn Rivers
By Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for The Health Board, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
Discussion Comments
By JackWhack — On Aug 02, 2012

The label on my sunscreen said to avoid the eye area, but I thought that I should apply it to my eyelids, because I didn't have any sunglasses to shield them from the harmful rays. I really wished later that I had heeded the advice on the label.

About thirty minutes after I put the sunscreen on my lids, my eyelids began to burn like they were on fire. They also itched, and I rubbed them, which was not a good idea.

I think that the sunscreen had soaked through my lids all the way to my eyeballs, because I had swollen, itchy eyes instead of just a topical itch on my lids. I went inside and washed it off, but that did not take away the misery. I just had to wait it out.

By StarJo — On Aug 02, 2012

@healthy4life – It sounds like you should be wearing a mask and glasses for protection when you mow! I can't imagine having swollen eyelids just from tending to the yard. I have had eyelid swelling from bug bites before, but never from allergens in the air.

My swollen eyelid almost caused me to miss a job interview once. I woke up on the morning of the interview and found one eyelid swollen nearly shut. It itched like crazy, and when I scratched it, my eyelid turned red.

A mosquito had bitten me during the night on the eyelid, of all places! I thought maybe it was fate and that I didn't need this job anyway, but after I applied antihistamine cream and let it soak in, the swelling went down, so I got to go to the interview.

By healthy4life — On Aug 01, 2012

I tend to get itchy, swollen eyelids after mowing the yard in the spring or early summer. This is the time when pollen covers everything in sight, and mowing really stirs it up.

The pollen flies up into the air and into my nose and eyes. By the time I'm done, I will be a sneezing, watery-eyed mess. I even develop a chest cough!

I once went inside and looked in the mirror to find my eyelids swollen and red. They soon began to itch like crazy.

I took a dose of antihistamines, but it didn't help much. I waited awhile and took another dose, and finally, about five hours later, the swelling went down and I could see and breathe normally again.

Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for The Health Board, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
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