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Things You Need to Know About Swollen Eyelids

The eyelids are an important structure that forms part of the visual system. Eyelids are flaps of skin that have a layer of membrane called conjunctiva which allows it to move smoothly over the eyeball. This helps spread the tear film on the eyeball which keeps it moist. Eyelids also help offer protection from harsh aspects of the external environment such as intense sunlight or fast winds. Eyelids help us squint, which can at times facilitate vision.
There are many diseases associated with eyelids and it is important to treat them considering the instrumental role the eyelids play in helping us interact with our environment. Eyelids can become infected especially where there associated physical trauma such as a cut or abrasion. Any pathology of the nerves that control the eyelids can make them immobile and droops. Eyelids can also have benign cyst formation and even more serious malignant basil cell carcinoma. Here we will discuss swollen eyelids, a very significant ailment of the eyelids.

What are swollen eyelids?

Swollen eyelids are when the eyelids appear ‘inflated’. This happens because there is excessive fluid in the tissue that makes up the eye. This fluid accumulation can be as a result of inflammation and many other conditions. This is why depending on the condition, there might be pain associated with this condition.


There are many conditions that can cause eyelids to swell up. Some of them are listed below

  • Infections of the eye
  • Allergic Reactions
  • Physical Injuries

There are also other serious ailments associated with swollen eyes, these include

  • Grave’s Disease
  • Ocular Herpes
  • Orbital Cellulitis

This is why it is best to immediately seek out a consultation with a specialist doctor so that they can assess the cause and devise a treatment plan.
The term ‘swollen eyes’ is usually used interchangeably with ‘puffy eyes.’ This wrongly miscommunicates information which insinuates that both are the same condition. Puffy eyes are not as serious of a condition as swollen eyes are. Puffy eyes refer to the external appearance of the eye and are caused by lack of sleep or water retention. Puffy eyes are also common in people of African and Asian ethnicities who also have genetic dark circles. Puffy eyes are also seen after crying.

Signs and Symptoms:

Swollen eye is usually not a problem in itself; it is usually the sign of an underlying condition. This is why other signs and symptoms are also present.

Red Eyes

The sclera (white part) of the eye has many blood vessels that run through it. These blood vessels can often become dilated contributing to the redness of the eye. This can occur because of over straining of the eye, allergic reactions or other serious conditions

Watery Eyes

The eyes are kept moist by a layer of tear film on the eyeball. Watery eyes can be as a result of excessive secretion of tears or problems with the drainage of the eye. This is seen in chronic dry eyes, physical trauma to the eye or even allergic reactions.

Dry Eyes

Sometimes the tear film on the eye is not sufficient enough to maintain the moist environment of the eye. This can cause dry eye syndrome. Dry eye syndrome needs to be treated with immediate attention as it can progress to scarring of the surface of the eye and then significant loss of vision and blindness.


This is seen when the eyelids have swollen up as a result of allergies. Certain substances such as dust, pollen and animal fur can lead to the release of mediators such as histamine which causes a hypersensitivity reaction. This results in redness and itchiness of the eyelid.

Light Sensitivity

Light sensitivity can be caused by photophobia, where the eye cannot be exposed to bright lights. They can also be caused by eyes that do not tolerate a certain type of light such as fluorescent or incandescent. Light sensitivity is also associated with headaches, general discomfort and squinting of the eyes.

Discharge from the eye

Eye discharge is seen in a multitude of serious eye maladies such as pink eye (conjunctivitis), dry eyes and blockage of the tear duct. Eye discharge has many different constituents such as mucous, lubricating oils, water and skin cells. This leads to a spectrum in the quality of eye discharge such as yellow, sticky and thick to clear, dry and thin.


Pain is a very common symptom in all eye conditions. It can be concentrated in one region or radiate to other parts of the head causing a headache. The pain is caused by mediators released as a result of inflammation that sensitize and stimulate receptors. Eye pain may also lead to problems with visions and photophobia.

Problems with vision

This condition can decrease the area of the eye exposed, which can affect vision as it allows us to see lesser. The decrease in vision is especially profound when the eye swelling is as a result of a cyst or tumor.


While most people tend to follow home remedies or self-medicate when it comes to treating the swelling of the eye it is best to seek out professional help so that a doctor can figure out the cause and hence recommend the right treatment.
For eye swelling caused by sty or other infections, an antibiotic course is helpful in resolving the infection. Cold compresses can also decrease the appearance of the swelling and also aid with relief from other signs such as redness and pain. The use of certain cosmetic and beauty products can cause allergic reactions that lead to swelling. In these circumstances it is best to quit using these products immediately. There is often marked improvement in swelling after these products are removed from your routines.
For more serious medical conditions such as a blocked tear duct, surgery may need to be performed if gentle massages and warm compression fail. Grave’s disease will need to be targeted by medication and if needed thyroid surgery.