A swollen eyelid happens when excess fluid (edema) builds up in the tissues around the eyes. This causes inflammation and makes the eyes look swollen. Swollen eyes affect both upper and lower eyelids with or without associated pain.
From eye infections, injuries, trauma, or allergies, there are varying causes of swollen eyelids. For rare cases, swelling of the eyelids could indicate a serious and potentially sight-threatening health problem that could involve orbital cellulitis, Grave’s disease, or ocular herpes.
If the swelling persists, worsen, or change, it is highly advised to visit your eye doctor immediately.
Symptoms of Swollen Eyelids
Swollen eyes commonly come with one or more of the following:
- Sensitivity to light (Photophobia)
- Itchy eyes
- Watering eyes
- Red eyes and conjunctival inflammation
- Flaking or dryness of the eyelid
- Obstructed vision
- Eye discharge
- Redness of the eyelid
- Eye pain, especially when swelling is caused by an infection
Here is a more detailed information on the most common symptoms of swollen eyelids:
Typically, allergies cause eyelids to swell. Pollen, dust, animal dander, and other allergens usually cause the release of histamine around the eyes which can result in itching, redness, and swelling of the eyes.
In reaction to light sensitivity or photophobia, the eyelids may swell and cause discomfort along with the need to squint or close the eyes. Intolerance to light through sources like the sunlight, fluorescent lights, and incandescent lights can also be accompanied by headaches.
Dry eye syndrome can cause a series of issues, including swollen eyelids. Dry eye syndrome is rooted in chronic insufficient lubrication and moisture on the eye surface. Severe consequences of dry eyes can lead to inflammation and even scarring of the front surface of the eye or the cornea.
Eye pain is commonly accompanied by blurred vision, redness of the eyes, sensitivity to light, and swollen eyelids. Eye pain is a catch-all phrase used to characterize discomfort on, in, behind, or around the eye.
Puffy vs. Swollen Eyes
The term “puffy eyes” is often used interchangeably with “swollen eyes,”. However, the two conditions are different. The term “swollen eyes” is usually used to describe an immune response to allergy, injury, or infection. Whereas “puffy eyes” is more likely applicable to describe the external physical characteristic of swollen eyes from water retention, genetic traits such as dark circles, or lack of sleep.