Often as painful and sensitive as they are unsightly and annoying, swollen eyes (or swollen eyelids) are a common issue. They have a range of causes, so if you have suddenly noticed this issue popping up, how do you get to the bottom of it? Here, we’re going to look at the symptoms and signs of the most common causes, and what you can and should do about it.
If you have recently experienced an injury to the eye, then naturally you do not need to consider the symptoms too hard. You likely know you’ve been hit in the eye. Whether due to an assault, a stray ball, or other flying objects, be sure to treat an eye injury as soon as you can. You can apply a small cold compress to deal with pain and swelling. However, do not apply any pressure and do not use food items to cool the area down. If there are any symptoms besides temporary swelling, then you should see a doctor or go to the emergency room. Get in touch in advance to see if you need to, for instance, use eyewash or saline solution. Do not try to treat eye wounds yourself unless specifically instructed to do so by a medical professional.
The summer is pest season, which means we’re a lot more likely to deal with bug bites than any other time of the year. The majority of bug bites are little more than an annoyance. Most mosquitos, ticks, biting flies, ants, and bed bugs will have relatively benign bites. The symptoms to not be too concerned about include redness, a slight burning sensation, localized swelling, pain, and itching. However, eye swelling is one of the symptoms of a bug bite that should be worth seeing a doctor over. This is especially true if you were bitten near the eye, as it can be susceptible to the bacteria your body might normally fight off.
While staying hydrated is, of course, always recommended, there is such a thing as having too much water inside the body. When excess fluids build-up, this is known as edema or fluid retention and it tends to affect specific parts of the body. Most cases of edema are not serious, but it can be a symptom of chronic conditions like kidney disease and heart failure. Other symptoms of fluid retention include the aching of swollen areas, unexpected weight fluctuations, and stiff joints. If you have one or more of these symptoms suddenly, then you should seek immediate treatment to make sure that there’s nothing underlying. If it’s a slower case of edema, you can take measures to reduce fluid retention.
One of the most common causes of a seemingly unexplained red, itchy, and puffy eye area is that you have an allergy to something in the air. Especially in summer, hayfever can run wild, but there are other allergies that can include mold and pet dander allergies. Allergies happen when the body’s immune system is too sensitive to certain external substances and overreacts to them. If you’re experiencing swollen eyes alongside other allergy symptoms such as a runny nose, stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing, or dry, scaly skin, you should look into testing for allergy triggers. Depending on what type of allergy you have, there are a lot of medications that can help you both fight the immediate allergy response and manage your symptoms over time. You can also be more aware of the triggers and how to prevent them, such as keeping pets out of the bedroom or keeping pollen out of the house.
If you have a red painful bump on the surface of the eyelid alongside your swelling and sensitivity, then it is likely that you’re dealing with an external stye. These are caused by the infection of one of the oil glands of the eye in most cases, due to a specific kind of bacteria. It can also happen in the eyelash follicle or sweat gland attached to the follicle. Styes are best treated with a warm compress, which can relieve symptoms. They tend to heal themselves over a few weeks, but you should avoid using makeup in the meantime as it can lead to another infection.
Also known as conjunctivitis, pink eye is a common symptom of multiple types of infection. Caused by bacterial, viral, and allergic infections, conjunctivitis is the inflammation n the surface of the eye. Unlike many of the other cases here, the swelling may be on the eye itself, not just the eyelid, and it can spread to one or both eyes. You may even experience pus or sticky coatings on the lashes and corners of the eye. Pink eye tends to get better on its own, but you can clean it out with warm water and cotton (don’t directly touch the eye with the cotton.) Avoid touching your eyes as this can spread it, too.
An infection can affect the skin around the eye just as easily as any other part of the body. When this happens, the skin itself can feel more sensitive and painful. This is known as cellulitis and is best treated with antibiotics. However, you should be aware of whether or not you’re experiencing some of the symptoms of an infection that getting more serious. This can include sudden bouts of shaking, nausea, dizziness, or an inability to move the eye. This could be a sign that the infection is no longer on the surface of the skin alone but has gotten into the body. Emergency treatment is essential if this happens.
Though commonly inoculated against, singles, also known as herpes zoster, can still affect a lot of people, especially older adults and people with weak immune systems. Alongside the swelling and redness of the eyelid, this infection which is caused by the chickenpox virus can also include pain and a rash localized to one side or part of the body. Shingles can be dangerous and should be managed as soon as possible. If you experience any of these symptoms, including burning, tingling, or prickling in the affected area, then antiviral drugs can help shorten the lifespan of the infection. While serious complications are rare, untreated shingles can lead to pneumonia, blindness, hearing problems, and even fatal issues such as swelling of the brain, known as encephalitis. It should never be ignored.
There is a wide range of thyroid conditions that can affect us over our life. Many of these can also impact our eyes, leading to swelling, sensitivity, and redness. Graves’ disease is one of these. It’s an autoimmune disorder that leads to an overactive thyroid (also known as hyperthyroidism.) Graves’ eye disease is a particular kind that can lead to a feeling of irritation or grittiness in the eyes, inflammation of the whites of the eyes (not just the skin around it), teary eyes, dry eyes, the sensitivity of light and bulging light. Other symptoms of an overactive thyroid can include persistent tiredness, sensitivity to heat, heart palpitations, twitching and trembling, and mood swings.
What to do to treat swollen eyes straight away
How you treat your eyelid or eye should predominantly depend on what is the cause of the swelling. Trying to treat some of the conditions alone without knowing what they are can be very dangerous. However, to help manage symptoms until you can get a diagnosis and more precise treatment, you can apply a compress to the eye, such as clean, wet cloth for fifteen minutes twice a day. This, alongside using a clean cotton swab to wash the eye with baby shampoo and water can help get rid of eyelash crust and extra oil that might be worsening the issue. If your eyes are overly sensitive or there is clear damage or something growing there such as a stye, then be sure not to do anything that would irritate it. Don’t wear any eye makeup or contact lenses until you have your diagnosis either.
When to see a doctor about your eye
As mentioned, there can be many causes of swollen eyelids and some aren’t too serious. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms alongside it, then you should see your doctor as soon as possible. If you have any pain in the eye itself, changes to your vision (including blurriness, distortions, floaters, or otherwise), or you have a feeling that something is stuck in your eye, then you should see a doctor. Similarly, if you feel like it is affecting the eye itself, not just the eyelid, then you should see a doctor too. If you are at all worried that you can’t find the cause of your symptoms, there is nothing wrong with being overly cautious about it.
Lastly, even if the symptoms aren’t severe, if you experience swollen eyes or eyelids on a regular basis, you should definitely get to know the source. It’s clear there is something recurring going wrong and you can put a stop to it.