Swollen eye lids

A swollen eyelid occurs when there is inflammation or excess fluid in the connective tissues surrounding the eye.


Swollen eyes can be painful and non-painful, and affect both the upper and lower eyelids.

Swollen eyes may be accompanied by eye irritation, scratchy or itchy sensation, sensitivity to light or watery eyes. There may also be obstruction to vision, redness of the eyelid, eye mattering or even pain.



There are numerous causes of swollen eyelids — ranging from mild to potentially sight-threatening conditions.


Eye allergies can be caused by pollen, dust, pet dander, certain eye drops, contact lens solutions, or even eye make-up. Allergic, bacterial and viral types of pink eye conjunctivitis can all result in swollen eyelids.


Styes, usually appearing as a swollen reddish bump on the edge of an eyelid, are caused by bacterial infection and inflammation of oil glands in the eye lids. Inflammation of the eyelids, known as blepharitis, is usually caused by the malfunctioning of oil glands in the lids and is characterized by swollen and/or red eyelids. Blepharitis can be accompanied by dandruff-like flaky eyelid skin and loss of eyelashes.


Any trauma to the eye area, including an eyelid contusion can trigger inflammation and swollen eyes.


Periorbital cellulitis is a relatively common infection and/or inflammation of the eyelid and portions of skin around the eye, whereas orbital cellulitis is a rare, but serious, bacterial infection of tissues surrounding the eye, resulting in painful swelling of the upper and lower eyelid and possibly the eyebrow and cheek. Other symptoms include bulging eyes, decreased vision, fever, and eye pain when moving the eyes.


Orbital cellulitis is a medical emergency and prompt IV antibiotic treatment often is needed to prevent optic nerve damage, permanent vision loss or blindness and other serious complications.



Our view


It can be seen that there are numerous causes of swollen eye lids, some mild and not so serious, whilst others are potentially sight threatening medical emergencies.


Thorough eye examinations with careful observation and history taking by a specialist optometrist are very important for early detection and successful management.


Article written by

Mr K.Lakhani BSC MCOptom Dp Tp Ip

Specialist Optometrist.

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