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Swollen Eyelid

Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Questions & Related Topics

Key Points

  • The article highlights the five primary causes of a swollen eyelid: inflammation, crying, injury, fatigue, and irritants such as makeup or dirt.
  • Swelling can be a symptom of a mild infection or a severe injury, while crying results in fluid retention around the eyelids.
  • Certain health conditions, including allergies, infections, blockages, Graves’ disease, and eye cancer, can also lead to eyelid swelling.
  • Allergies can cause allergic conjunctivitis, infections can lead to conjunctivitis or styes, and blockages can result in a chalazion or tear duct blockage.
  • The article ends by suggesting possible questions a doctor may ask to diagnose the cause of a swollen eyelid.

Top 5 Causes of a Swollen Eyelid

1. Inflammation

Inflammation is one of the most common causes of a swollen eyelid.[1] When the skin becomes inflamed, it usually gets puffy or swollen, hot, red, and painful. The skin of the eyelid is incredibly thin, so if it becomes inflamed, it’s highly noticeable. Inflammation is usually a sign of another problem, ranging from a mild infection or a bug bite to a much more serious issue, such as a severe injury.

2. Crying

People cry for many reasons, but the outcome is usually the same for most individuals. When you cry, it can cause your eyes to become puffy and swollen.[2] This happens because the fluid caused by crying usually stays in or near the eyelids, creating puffiness. It can be uncomfortable — and sometimes even painful — but usually the swelling goes down on its own.

3. Injury

Just like when you injure other parts of your body and they swell, get red, and become painful, you can injure your eyelid and cause the same results. Usually, this is one of the causes of swollen eyelids and inflammation. Mild injuries typically heal on their own, and swelling minimizes with time. If the injury is more severe, however, the swelling could linger or even worsen with time.

4. Fatigue

People sometimes experience puffy, swollen, or inflamed-looking eyes when they haven’t slept enough and are suffering from fatigue. You can usually see this when you wake up after a night of restless sleep or if you haven’t slept at all. You can, of course, use home remedies such as a cold compress to minimize puffiness or cover the issue with makeup, but the best remedy is simply sleep.

5. Irritants

If you get something in your eyes, such as makeup, dirt, grit, or something else that could cause your eyes to become irritated, they could swell. It’s a good idea to use eyedrops in order to flush these irritants out of your eyes.[2] If you still have trouble with irritation, swelling, and redness several minutes or an hour later, you might be dealing with something more severe than a temporary irritation.

Possible Health Conditions Related to a Swollen Eyelid


Allergies can cause the eyelids to swell; in fact, the term for this issue is allergic conjunctivitis. It is common for someone who is allergic to something such as pet dander, mold, pollen, or a type of food, among other allergens, to experience a swelling of the eyes when they come into contact with these substances.[4] Signs of an allergic reaction are red, teary, itchy, and swollen eyes that don’t become better with the use of eye drops; burning in the eyes; and discharge coming from the eyes. Allergies can be managed with medication in most cases.


Many different types of infections can cause inflammation and swelling of the eyes. One is called conjunctivitis, and its common name is pink eye. Conjunctivitis hurts, is contagious, and is mostly contracted by children. A stye is another type of infection that can cause the eye to swell. It creates a bump (often on the inside of the eyelid) when bacteria get into the eye and cause an infection. Blepharitis is another type of infection that creates pain and redness, sensitivity to light, and watery eyes. Eye infections can often be identified by similar symptoms associated with allergies, but antibiotics can treat the infection in most cases.


There are two types of blockages that can lead to swelling of the eyelid: a chalazion and tear duct blockage. A chalazion occurs when the glands in the eyelid become blocked and create a cyst. The cyst causes the eyelid to swell, but it seldom becomes itchy, red, or painful. Usually, this issue disappears without treatment.[5] Tear duct blockage keeps the tears from being able to drain properly, creating redness, pain, and swelling. Crusty eyelids are another symptom of tear duct blockage; very young children are the most likely individuals to experience this. In both cases of blockage, a warm compress can be a helpful treatment.

Graves’ Disease

Graves’ disease is a serious autoimmune condition in which the thyroid creates too much of its hormone (also known as hyperthyroidism). The eyelids can swell as a result of Graves’ disease, as can the thyroid grand, causing a goiter. Nervousness, fatigue, weight loss, tremors, and tachycardia are also strong symptoms of Graves’ disease.[6] Treatment usually requires medication.

Eye Cancer

In some very rare instances, a swollen eyelid can be a sign of eye cancer, or melanoma of the eye. This is, of course, not the cause of most swollen eyes. Other symptoms of eye cancer include bulging eyes, a change in the color of the iris, painful eyes, vision problems, and blotches or defects that can be seen inside the iris or eyelid itself.[7] Melanoma of the eye requires medical diagnosis, and treatments can range from radiation therapy to laser therapy or surgery.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Your Swollen Eyelid

  • How long have you dealt with a swollen eyelid?
  • Do you have any other symptoms, such as tearing, redness, etc.?
  • Have you sustained an injury to the eye? If so, when?
  • Does your eye hurt?
  • Are you allergic to anything?
  • Have you tried eyedrops, warm compresses, or any other at-home remedies? Did they help?
  • Do the symptoms subside and return, or do they stay constant?

Swollen Eyelid May Also Be Known as

  • Inflamed eyelid
  • Sore eyelid
  • Red eyelid

Frequently asked questions

  • What are the main causes of a swollen eyelid?

    The main causes of a swollen eyelid are inflammation, crying, injury, fatigue, and irritants such as makeup or dirt.
  • Can health conditions lead to a swollen eyelid?

    Yes, certain health conditions like allergies, infections, blockages, Graves’ disease, and eye cancer can cause swollen eyelids.
  • How can allergies affect my eyelids?

    Allergies can lead to a condition called allergic conjunctivitis, which can cause your eyelids to swell.
  • What can cause a swollen eyelid in case of an infection or blockage?

    Infections can lead to conditions like conjunctivitis or styes, which can cause swelling. Blockages, on the other hand, can result in a chalazion or tear duct blockage, also causing swollen eyelids.
  • Are there any rare diseases that can cause swollen eyelids?

    Yes, Graves’ disease, an autoimmune condition, and eye cancer, though rare, can also cause swollen eyelids.
  • What happens when I cry that causes my eyelids to swell?

    When you cry, it leads to fluid retention around the eyelids, which can cause them to swell.
  • Can fatigue cause my eyelids to swell?

    Yes, fatigue often results in puffy or swollen eyes.
  • What questions might a doctor ask to diagnose the cause of my swollen eyelid?

    A doctor may ask about your symptoms, medical history, any recent injuries or irritants you've been exposed to, or if you've been experiencing fatigue or crying excessively.

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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