Swollen eyelids

Swollen eyelids occur when the tissue around your eyes contains excess fluid, inflaming the skin and sometimes causing pain. Swollen eyelids can happen for a range of different reasons such as allergies and hay fever to reactions from cosmetics, eye conditions such as blepharitis. Most issues related to eye swelling can be treated with at home remedies, or over the counter medicines and usually subside after a few days. In some rarer instances, the issue may require more intensive medical attention, but this depends greatly on what has caused the eyelids to swell.

Swollen eyelids symptoms

The symptoms of swollen eye lids can include minor to severe itching, redness and irritation. Sufferers may also notice bumps, or a discharge from the eyes that can range from white to yellow depend on what has caused the swollen eyelids.  It is important to avoid constantly rubbing your eyes when these symptoms occur as this could cause further irritation and inflammation of the eye. Symptoms usually start in one eye before affecting the other.


Swollen eyelids causes

Swollen eyelids can be caused by a number of things, ranging from allergies, to beauty products and medical conditions. They can be painful, but in some instances not painful at all. Listed are the four main causes of swollen eyelids.


Hay fever

Hay fever, is one of the most common causes of swollen and puffy eyelids. People who suffer from hay fever should check the daily and weekly pollen counts to know when they will be most affected.

During hay fever season, it is recommended that hay fever sufferers avoid areas with a great deal of vegetation and stay indoors with the windows closed if possible. Hay fever suffers may also want to take anti-allergy tablets which can either be prescribed by a GP or bought over the counter, do regular eye washes and wear wraparound sunglasses.



Asides from pollen which causes hay fever, allergens also include dust, dust mites, mould and dander. Various things around the home can contribute to this including hair and fur from pets, and a lack of regular cleaning which allows a build-up of particles. These allergies result when your eyes release histamines to combat the allergens, causing swelling and inflammation of eyes and eyelids.



Reactions to cosmetics, particularly make-up is also a common cause of swollen eyes due to a reaction with products. Recognising the needs of people with more sensitive skin, many cosmetic companies now formulate their products with fewer preservatives and artificial ingredients as possible. People with sensitive skin should look for products that are ophthalmologically tested and free of oils, perfumes and other harsh additives.

Popularised cosmetic treatments such as glued on false eyelashes should be applied with caution and it is highly advised that you visit a qualified beautician when getting such treatments.


Infections and medical conditions

Eyelids can often swell as a result of common eye infections such as conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye. Conjunctivitis can occur due to a viral or bacterial infection, or also from allergic reactions from pollen, dust, mites or pets. It can be easily treated with over the counter antibiotic eyedrops and usually clears up after a few days.  

Another common condition, blepharitis, also causes the eyelids to swell. The conditions typically effects both eyelids and is the result of oil glands in the eyelid becoming blocked or in some cases, bacterial infections. Blepharitis is not contagious and can be treated by regular warm compresses using a clean towel, or specially formulated eyelid wipes.

In some rare cases, swollen eyelids can also be a symptom of a more serious condition, which is why it's highly advisable to visit your GP or optician if the swelling doesn’t go down after a few days.

Conditions that can induce intense swelling to include orbital cellulitis which affects the rear of the eye, it is known as retro-orbital cellulitis.  inflammation of eye tissues behind the orbital septum. In some cases, it may occur after an injury or trauma to the eye. More commonly however, it is caused by a severe spread of infection into the eye socket either through the blood, or from the adjacent sinuses.

Swollen eyelids treatments

As it depends on the cause behind your swollen eyelids, the type of treatment you should use can vary. That’s why it’s always best to discuss your symptoms with your doctor or optician to find out the right steps to take.

Some helpful things you can do at home include using a cool compress to reduce the swelling, and to gently splash your face with cool water.

In most cases using over-the-counter eye drops are a highly effective method to reduce inflammation and re-hydrate your eyes, particularly if your swollen eyelids are caused by allergies.


How to avoid swollen eyelids or red puffy eyes

Depending on the cause of the swollen eyelids it is possible to prevent or at least reduce the swelling when it occurs.

  • If you wear makeup, opt for products that are ophthalmologically tested, hypoallergenic and preservative and fragrance-free. Also make sure not to use cosmetics that have passed their shelf life and avoid sharing makeup brushes and tools with others. Also, make sure to regularly clean and disinfect your makeup brushes and tools.
  • When using new cosmetics, patch test the product for potential reactions. Wait 24 hours before using the product fully.
  • If you have hay fever, take preventative measures such as taking anti-allergen medication, wearing wraparound sunglasses and giving yourself eye washes through the day. If you’re a contact lens wearer, you should take a break from wearing your lenses until the swelling has come down.
  • Pay attention to when you have reactions and take note of what potential factors could have caused your eyes to swell. If it happens regularly, you may eventually spot a common denominator.
  • Refrain from rubbing your eyes as it will only aggravate the symptoms.
  • Keep long hair out of your eyes as hair can transfer product and oils into your eyes.
  • A cool compress using a clean hand towel over the eyes in the morning and evening can.
  • If your symptoms persist or worsen, it is highly advised that you seek help from a medical professional for further examination.

    Quick links:

    Do I need an eye test?
    A guide to light sensitivity
    A guide to blurry vision
    A guide to dry eyes



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