Eye Swelling

Swollen eyes or eyelids can be a true nuisance. Besides avoiding hand-to-eye contact while your eyes are swollen, learn what you can do to prevent and treat symptoms.

eye swelling

Swelling of the eyes, or eyelids, is a very common symptom among many people. Believe it or not there are over 70 causes of why ones eye swells. Some of the causes are rare, but most of them are due to allergies, Conjunctivitis and Blepharitis. There are many different ways to treat the swelling of your eyelids, but it’s very important that you know what is causing the swelling in the first place. If your experiencing any swelling of the eyelids and don’t know the cause you can visit one or more of the following medical professionals to determine the cause; a general practitioner, emergency physician, ophthalmologist or dermatologist will be able to pinpoint the reason behind the swelling.

Causes of Eye Swelling

We will only focus on the most common causes of eye swelling such as:

  • Allergies – Allergies are a very common reason why most people suffer from any type of eye symptom. Indoor and outdoor allergies can release histamines into your system, which only makes the problem worse and causes you to do things such as rub your eyes, which releases more histamines and causes swelling, sometimes severe swelling.
  • Eye InfectionsEye infections often lead to swelling of the tissue surrounding the eyes and eyelids. There are many types of infections caused by viruses or bacteria.
  • Blepharitis – This is a condition that causes inflammation within your eyelids. There could be underlying conditions such as dandruff, dry eyes and infections which can cause Blepharitis. Besides the swelling of your eyes, symptoms will also include burning, itchiness, excessive tearing and the feeling of a foreign substance within your eye.
  • Conjunctivitis- This is a contagious infection that could be viral or bacterial in origin. It can also be triggered by allergens, contact lenses, environmental irritants and eye drops and ointments. Besides swelling, it causes your eyes to burn, itch and become red in color. As said before, it’s contagious, so take precautions to reduce transmitting it to someone else, or receiving it.
  • Eye Stye - Styes are similar to pimples, only they are inflamed sebaceous glands located near the base of your eyelids. It is so important you leave styes alone, and don’t try to pierce or squeeze them, as they can spread throughout your eyelids. Washing your hands is crucial before touching your eyes, especially when you have a stye.

Other factors that can cause swelling of the eyes are things such as crying, sleeping, or too much sodium in a diet.

Treatment of Swollen Eyes

For eye infections, there are over the counter medications that can help alleviate swelling but visiting a doctor will help fix the problem. If you’re suffering from allergies, you can either alleviate your swollen eyes by using oral antihistamines and decongestants, as well as eye drops that contain antihistamines and decongestants. If you’re not suffering from allergies, you can apply either a warm washcloth over your eyes for a period of time, or a cold ice pack over your eyes for a period of time. Both ways reduce the swelling. Keeping your head elevated will also reduce the swelling around your eyes. Try not to lie down or keep your head in a position where blood can flow to it quicker. If bacteria is causing the swelling around your eyes, you can receive antibiotics to eliminate the infection as well as the swelling. Another option you can do is to splash cool water on your face and in your eyes. This can remove any particles that could be irritating your eyes. Also, avoid rubbing your eyes the best you can, this will only cause the swelling to worsen, even to the point of temporary blindness. For eye swelling that is persistent and will not go away, seek medical help from a medical professional.

Preventing Swollen Eyes

The number one thing you can do to prevent further swollenness, is to not rub your eyes and to seek medical attention if your situation is severe. Your doctor can provide you with medicine that will reduce the swelling almost immediately or can determine if there are more serious problems causing the swelling. If you suffer from allergies, try to take precautions while indoors, such as keeping air filters and air ducts clean, as well as vacuuming often to remove dust and dander. Outdoor precautions can include wearing face masks, especially if doing yard work or spending time outside during the spring and fall seasons. Also, you can ask your doctor to prescribe you antihistamine and decongestant medication to minimize the effects of allergy season.

References:
  • J. Anshel, MD “Smart Medicine for Your Eyes” (SquareOne Publishing, 2011) 163
  • J. Weizer, MD; J. Stein, MD, MS “Reader’s Digest Guide to Eye Care” (Quantum Publishing, Ltd. 2009) 33
  • J. Lavine, MD “The Eye Care Sourcebook” (Contemporary Books, 2001) 29-30
This article was last updated on 07/2014