The eyelid is a complex, fully functioning skin tissue that consists of eyelashes, tear glands (lacrimal), sweat glands (glands of Zeis or Moll), and sebaceous (oil or meibomian) glands. These tissues can develop inflammatory reactions, leading to a swollen eyelid.
A swollen eyelid is usually a symptom, not a condition. It's very common and is usually due to allergy, inflammation, infection, or injury. The skin of your eyelid is less than 1 millimeter thick. But, since the tissue is loose and stretchy, your eyelid is capable of swelling considerably.
A swollen eyelid is sometimes a symptom of a medical condition, such as:
- Clogged oil glands in your eyelid (called a chalazion)
- Eyelid infection (called a stye)
- Infection around your eye socket (called orbital cellulitis)
- Inflamed eyelids (called blepharitis)
- Pink eye (called conjunctivitis)
- Thyroid conditions such as Graves’ disease
Depending on the cause, you may experience swelling in one or both eyelids. Most of these conditions are not serious, but you should make sure to clean and care for your eyes if your eyelid is swollen.
Remedies and Treatments for a Swollen Eyelid
The treatment for a swollen eyelid depends on the cause. If you have an eye infection, you may need to use antibiotic eye drops, ointment, or other topical medication — meaning a medication to be applied on the body — to help remove the infection and ease your symptoms. Your doctor may give you antibiotics or steroids to take orally if the topical treatment is ineffective.
To relieve eyelid swelling and keep your eyes clear and healthy, try these home remedies for swollen eyelids:
Apply a Compress
Run a clean cloth under warm water and hold it gently on your eyes. Do this twice a day for 15 minutes at a time to help loosen crusty discharge and get rid of any oil that might be plugging your glands.
Gently Wash the Area
After using a compress, use a cotton swab or washcloth to gently clean your eyelids with diluted baby shampoo. Make sure to rinse your eye area well afterward. You can also use a saline solution to rinse the area if you have any discharge or crust around your eye or in your eyelashes.
Leave Your Eyes Alone
While you have symptoms, don't wear eye makeup or contact lenses. Get plenty of sleep and avoid direct sunlight so your eyes can rest.
Use Eye Drops
When to See a Doctor
Eyelid swelling usually goes away on its own within a day or so. If it doesn't get better in 24 to 48 hours, you should call your primary care physician or see your eye doctor. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and examine your eye and eyelid. Your doctor will ask questions about other symptoms or changes that may be causing your eyelid or eyelids to swell. These could include contact with allergens or irritants, infections, or other health conditions.
Remedies for Children
Children frequently experience eye irritation, typically from touching their eyes with unwashed hands. But there are several possible causes for eyelid swelling in children in addition to the causes listed above. These include:
- Rubbing the eye: Children often rub their eyes for various reasons but especially after getting an irritant in their eye.
- Insect bite near the eye: The loose tissues around the eye swell easily, which can happen as a reaction to a mosquito or other insect bite.
- Contact dermatitis near the eye: Contact with poison ivy, detergents, or other irritants may affect the eyelid.
To treat your child, try these home remedies:
Apply ice or a cold pack wrapped in a clean, wet washcloth to the eye for 15 to 20 minutes at a time to decrease eyelid swelling and pain.
You can safely give your child an allergy medicine or antihistamine by mouth. This will help to decrease eyelid swelling and itching. Benadryl every 6 hours or so is best.
For eyelid swelling that interferes with your child's vision, use a long-lasting vasoconstrictor eye drop (such as a tetrahydrozoline, like Visine). No prescription is needed. The recommended dose is one drop every eight to 12 hours as needed for one to two days.
You should seek emergency medical care or call your doctor right away if you or your child experience:
- Drooping of the eyelid
- Fever that won't break
- Light sensitivity, seeing flashing lights or wavy lines
- Loss of vision or double vision
- Severe redness, inflammation, and a hot feeling
- Severe swelling (the eye is shut or almost shut)