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What Causes Eyelid Inflammation?

By April S. Kenyon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Eyelid inflammation can have multiple causes. Allergies and environmental conditions, bacteria, and medications can all be the culprit of eyelid swelling, redness, itchy eyes, or discharge. Improper hygiene of the eyes can also open the door to bacterial infection and lead to eyelid irritation. In some instances, an ingrown eyelash may be the cause of eyelid inflammation. Some skin and medical conditions may also result in swollen eyelids.

Airborne allergens can cause what is referred to as allergen conjunctivitis, resulting in inflammation of the eyelids. Pollen, dust particles, and other tiny airborne elements can enter the eye or be ingested, causing an allergic reaction and eye inflammation. In contrast with natural airborne substances, contact dermatitis resulting from chemical substances used on or near the eye might also cause eyelid inflammation. These might include makeup, facial cleaners, perfumes, hair products, and deodorant sprays. Indoor allergies, such as a reaction to dogs or cats, can also cause inflamed eyelids.

A variety of medications might be the cause of eyelid inflammation as well. Red, swollen, itchy or watery eyes may be a side effect of certain prescription or over-the-counter substances. Individuals suffering from eye inflammation should always inform their doctors of any type of medications, supplements, or alternative treatments they are currently taking, as some drug interactions can cause eyelid inflammation as well.

Eyelid inflammation may also result from an ingrown eyelash. While irritation generally only occurs in the area where the eyelash is specifically growing, severe inflammation may result if the ingrown eyelash continues to progress without treatment. Ingrown eyelashes typically result in blurred vision, discomfort, dry eyes, and inflammation.

Bacterial infections are a common culprit of eye inflammation that most often result from poor hygiene of the eye. Some might experience swollen eyelids and irritation due to using old makeup that has gathered bacteria. Eye inflammation might also result from not completely removing makeup or from practicing improper hygiene habits. Bacteria can also be the cause of swollen eyelids in instances where hormonal changes or high stress levels result in an excessive production of oil from the glands of the eyes. This oil is referred to as seborrhea.

A number of medical conditions also can be the cause of swollen eyelids. These conditions include blepharitis, corneal ulcers or abrasions, episcleritis, glaucoma, astigmatism, and tumors. Many other conditions of the eye can also result in redness, itchiness, and eye inflammation. If a direct cause of eye inflammation is not evident, an ophthalmologist should check for signs of these conditions.

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Discussion Comments
By ddljohn — On Jul 21, 2013

@literally45-- It could also be a blocked tear duct. When a tear duct is closed, discharge can't flow out into the nasal passage and builds up around the eye. So it looks like the eyelid is inflamed.

By fBoyle — On Jul 20, 2013

@literally45-- I'm not a doctor but I have the same symptoms. It's an allergy. I think mine is due to pollen because I've noticed that my eyes become more inflamed and teary after going outside. I also have itchy eyelids. Does your daughter's eyelid itch?

You need to take her to a pediatrician so that he can prescribe allergy eye drops. That's what my doctor gives me when I get these symptoms and the inflammation goes away after a few days.

Since she's small, make sure she doesn't touch and scratch her eye because she might cause an infection.

By literally45 — On Jul 19, 2013

My daughter is two years old and her right eyelid looks inflamed for the past two days and she also has a clear discharge. It just looks like she's crying. I've been keeping her eye clean (wiping with hot water) and doing tea-bag soaks. This helps for a while but the swelling has not gone away.

Her eye is not red and the discharge doesn't have a color so I don't think it's an eyelid infection. She's also not squinting or crying so there is clearly no pain. Does this sound like an allergy?

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