Healthy eyes

Swollen Eyelids - Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Swollen eyelids are a common problem that can affect many of us from time to time. It’s useful to know swollen eye causes, the symptoms associated with swollen eyelids, and most importantly, how to treat swollen eyes. In this blog, we will explore the causes of swollen eyes and give you practical tips for prevention and treatment.

Last Update: 26 January 2024Created by: betterviewReading time: 5 minutes
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What Are The Symptoms of Swollen Eyelids?

Let's take a look at the different symptoms that can accompany swollen eyelids.

  • Watery eyes: Watery eyes are a common symptom of swollen eyelids. Not only can this be annoying, but it can also affect your vision.

  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia): Photophobia, otherwise known as sensitivity to light, is another unpleasant symptom of swollen eyelids. This occurs when you experience irritation or pain in your eyes in bright light or sunshine.

  • Redness of the eye or eyelid: Swollen eyelids are often accompanied by redness and inflammation in the eye or eyelids. Red swollen eyes are not only uncomfortable, but they can indicate irritation or infection.

  • Blurred vision: The swelling that accompanies swollen eyelids can cause blurred vision, making it difficult to read, drive, or even recognise faces.

  • Itching: Swollen eyelids are often accompanied by itching. This is very uncomfortable and can cause you to rub your eyes more often, which may make the swelling worse.

  • Secretion or discharge: You may notice a clear or purulent discharge from the eyes. This can indicate an eye infection, which requires careful observation and possibly medical treatment.

What are Possible Causes of Swollen Eyelids?

There are a few different causes of swollen eyes, including allergic reactions, eye infections, eye injuries, contact lens-related problems, and various illnesses. Let’s take a look at these common causes in more detail.

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Allergic reactions: Allergies to pollen, dust mites, animal hair or certain foods often cause swollen eyelids. These reactions can lead to inflammation and swelling around the eyes. There are often accompanying symptoms such as a runny nose and red, watery eyes.

Eye infections: Infections such as conjunctivitis or styes (hordeolum) can cause swollen eyelids, often triggered by bacteria, viruses, or allergens.

Eye injuries: Traumatic injuries, such as bruises, cuts, or foreign bodies in the eye can cause eyelid swelling. The injuries can be both external and internal. If the injury is external (e.g. a hit to the face), a bruise often occurs around the eye.

Contact lenses: Improperly used or dirty contact lenses can cause irritation and swelling of the eyelids. This is often the case with improper care, contact lens intolerance, allergies to contact lens solutions, or if a contact lens gets lost in your eye.

If you want to avoid contact lenses in the long term, you should consider a permanent solution such as laser eye treatment at betterview. This is an excellent option to improve your vision and avoid the risks of contact lenses.

Diseases: Internal diseases such as thyroid disease, kidney failure, or heart disease can cause swollen eyelids. These diseases often lead to edema (water retention) throughout the body, including the eye area. However, it’s good to note that swollen eyelids can often also occur due to a common cold.

Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes during pregnancy or menopause can cause swollen eyelids. In women, the hormone oestrogen often causes water retention during ovulation or menstruation, which can be noticeable in the eye area.

Lifestyle: A lack of sleep, excessive alcohol consumption, and an unhealthy diet can cause eyelids to swell. Alcohol consumption and an unhealthy diet encourage fluid retention which makes the eyes appear puffy.

Genetic predisposition: Some people have a natural tendency to develop swollen eyelids due to their genetic predisposition, which can develop regardless of other factors.

Ageing: As we age, the skin around our eyes loses its elasticity, causing the eyelids to look droopy and puffy.

How To Treat Swollen Eyes

If you're struggling with swollen eyes, there are some steps you can take to provide some relief.


  • Eye drops: Over-the-counter eye drops designed to relieve allergies and irritation can help with swollen eyelids, as they reduce irritation and swelling. However, you should consult with your pharmacist to ensure you get the right eye drops for your situation.

  • Eye ointments: Eye ointments typically contain anti-inflammatory or soothing ingredients, which can help to relieve swelling and irritation.

Remove contact lenses

If you wear contact lenses and notice that you have swollen eyelids, it’s advisable to remove the lenses and temporarily switch to glasses to reduce irritation. If you repeatedly experience swollen eyelids when wearing contact lenses, you should consider a permanent alternative, like laser eye surgery.

Change lifestyle habits

  • Adequate sleep and breaks: Enough sleep and regular breaks for your eyes are crucial, as a lack of sleep can lead to swollen eyelids. To help keep your eyes relaxed, you could also try some eye exercises.

  • Hydration: Make sure to drink enough water to keep your body hydrated and reduce water retention.

  • Healthy diet: Eat a balanced diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables, as this can prevent swollen eyelids. If you are already experiencing swollen eyelids, foods with anti-inflammatory properties such as omega-3 fatty acids (eg. fish) can also be helpful in relieving symptoms.

  • Avoid salt: Reduce your consumption of salty foods. Too much salt can cause the body to retain water, which may lead to lymphatic congestion. This often manifests itself with swollen eyelids in the morning.

Home remedies

  • Cold compresses: Applying cold compresses, like a damp cloth or an ice pack, to swollen eyelids provides temporary relief, as they reduce swelling and refresh the eyes.

  • Eye exercises: Regular eye exercises, such as blinking and focusing on near and distant objects, can promote blood circulation and help to relax the eyes.

When Should I Consult a Doctor if My Eyes Are Swollen?

It is important to recognise when swollen eyelids indicate a more serious matter and require medical attention.

Here are some signs that you should consult a doctor:

  • Severe pain: If the swelling is accompanied by severe pain or you have had an injury to your eyes, seek medical attention immediately.

  • Vision problems: If your vision is blurred or you notice sudden changes in your vision, a medical examination is recommended.

  • Long-lasting swelling: If eyelid swelling persists for more than a few days or occurs repeatedly, make an appointment with an ophthalmologist as they will be able to determine the cause.

  • Eye infections: If you have any signs of an eye infection, such as red eyes, discharge, or severe itching, an ophthalmologist should be consulted. An infection requires assistance from a medical professional and the appropriate treatment.

  • Allergic reactions: Immediate medical attention is required for severe allergic reactions that result in difficulty breathing or swelling of the face, including the eyes.

  • Fever and systemic symptoms: If the swollen eyelids are accompanied by a fever, headache, or other systemic symptoms, a doctor should be consulted immediately.

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How Are Swollen Eyes Treated Medically?

Medical treatment for swollen eyelids focuses on identifying the underlying cause. As soon as this has been determined, the ophthalmologist can take appropriate measures.

In most cases, treatment involves prescribing medications such as anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics, or eye drops to reduce irritation and swelling. The choice of medication depends on the specific diagnosis, be it an allergy, an infection, or an inflammation.

In some situations, such as severe eye infections or blocked tear ducts, eye surgery may be necessary. The doctor will decide individually which treatment methods are best suited to relieve swelling and restore eye health.

We hope the information in this guide helped you to learn more about the causes of swollen eyes, the symptoms you may experience, and how to get rid of swollen eyes. If you’re experiencing vision problems, laser eye treatment is an option that can address a number of conditions. Book a free consultation today to start your 4-step journey with betterview.

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