Swollen eyelids – causes, treatment

Swollen eyelids

Swollen eyelids often occur with lack of sleep or grief-related crying, but can also be caused by allergies. Prevention and treatment must be attuned to the reasons for its occurrence.

What are swollen eyelids?

Swollen eyelids are noticeable by reddened, slightly painful eyelids. In addition to the eyelids, the bags under the eyes and the parts next to the eyes are often swollen.

When touched, the affected areas often start to burn and the swelling becomes stronger, depending on the pressure. In addition, vision can be severely restricted by swollen eyelids.


The causes of swollen eyelids are diverse. Triggers are usually allergies to pollen, house dust or fine dust. Cat and dog hair allergies can also be the cause of reddened and watery eyes.

Another reason for swollen eyelids is lack of sleep. After a night of little sleep, the eye areas are not rested and accordingly irritated. Even prolonged crying causes the eyelids to swell.

In addition, swelling can also occur due to isolated diseases of the eye. For example, by a stye, a hailstone or orbitaphlegmon. The latter is an infection that must be treated immediately, otherwise blindness threatens.

Other causes of swollen eyelids can include kidney failure, heart failurecluster headaches, thyroid disease, a tumor on the eye, or a simple cold. Finally, swollen or irritated eyelids can also be hereditary. With appropriate systems, large bags under the eyes and thick eyelids are unavoidable.

Diseases with this symptom

Diagnosis & course

Due to the large number of causes that swollen eyelids can have, the diagnosis is primarily based on the previous medical history. As a rule, the diagnosis is made by the ophthalmologist, who examines the eyes and gradually excludes the diseases mentioned until the cause is present.

This process is accompanied by extensive discussions with the patient, in which further possible reasons are worked out. In addition, it must be determined whether both eyelids or only one is affected.

Despite the many possible reasons, the diagnosis can usually be made relatively quickly, as most diseases can be detected directly on the eye and eyelids. For example, it is possible for an ophthalmologist to determine high blood pressure or diabetes on the basis of the respective eye swelling as part of the diagnosis.

In addition, swabs of the eye secretion and, under certain circumstances, tissue samples are taken and examined microscopically. This allows malignant changes to be detected, bacterial pathogens to be determined or simple irritations to be detected. Only then is it possible to initiate the appropriate form of therapy.


Swollen eyelids or eyes can occur as a result of various complaints and the possible complications are correspondingly diverse. Initially, the swelling restricts vision and leads to pain and itching in the area of the swollen eyelids. Those affected are also extremely sensitive to light and often have the feeling of having a foreign body in their eye. Accordingly, there may be increased lacrimation and severe itching.

Due to the itching, sufferers rub their eyelids and thus cause an intensification of swelling, often accompanied by a transfer of allergens or pathogens to other organs. If the swollen eyelids are based on lymphatic congestion, the symptoms also intensify in the course of the disease: there is a feeling of pressure in the eye and in some cases the formation of a stye, i.e. a bacterial infection of the glands on the eyelid. Lack of sleep as a cause is accompanied by fatigue and the typical symptoms, but is otherwise harmless.

On the other hand, there are complications when the swollen eyes have inflammation of the conjunctiva. The inflammation initially causes the eyelids to swell, in addition to it comes to the typical feeling of having sand in the eye. In the further course, the swelling is then transmitted to the cornea itself, which results in clouding of the lens and impaired vision.

When to go to the doctor?

Swollen eyelids can be due to a condition or a sign of aging. Swollen eyelids are characterized by water retention in the tissue around the eyes. Swelling under the eyes is also called bags under the eyes. In most cases, such familial swollen eyelids are no reason to consult a doctor.

If you want to be on the safe side, you can of course do so or talk to your family doctor on occasion as part of another examination. On the other hand, it looks different if someone wakes up every morning with particularly thickly swollen eyelids. Then going to the doctor is absolutely necessary in your own interest.

The first point of contact for clarifying swollen eyelids is the family doctor. After his medical history and some examinations, he decides whether to continue the treatment or refer it to a specialist: an internistallergist or ophthalmologist. Less dangerous causes of swollen eyelids include, for example, conjunctivitis, eyelid inflammation, allergies to pollen, bed feathers, house dust or mites, colds or menstruation.

But also certain foods consumed in the evening such as salty snacks, protein-rich meals or alcoholic beverages can lead to swollen eyelids the next morning. However, the swelling of the eyes can also be caused by a disturbed lymph flow, high blood pressure, kidney damage and thyroid dysfunction.

Treatment & Therapy

Depending on which cause has been diagnosed, swollen eyes need to be treated differently. If it is a swelling due to lack of sleep or crying, cooling of the affected areas is usually sufficient. For example, a cold spoon is placed on the eye for a few minutes or cooling glasses are used.

In addition, the eyes should be able to relax and must not be additionally burdened. If the swollen eyelids occur due to a bacterial infection, medication must be used in any case. In addition, the contact lenses must be changed to avoid re-infection. In general, it is important to pay attention to clean hands if there is an infection on the eyes.

If a stye is the cause, both antibiotic drops and various home remedies are used for treatment. For example, apple cider vinegar, eyebright or fennel tea. In addition, it can help to irradiate the affected areas with a red light lamp. As a result, the bacterial focus is dried out and the pain decreases.

However, these treatment methods should always be used only after consultation with the doctor. If the swelling of the eyelids occurs due to a tumor on the eye or a thyroid disease, usually only surgery helps.

Outlook & Forecast

In most cases, the swollen eyelids occur due to stress, overwork, and eye fatigue. Here the patient should rest and, above all, sleep, after which the symptom usually disappears on its own.

Flu, colds and infections are often accompanied by swollen eyelids. This is a common symptom, which also disappears with the end of the disease and does not lead to any further problems.

If the eyes hurt or visual disturbances occur, a doctor must be consulted. In this case, it may be an inflammation in the eye, which must definitely be treated by a doctor. Treatment is carried out with antibiotics and leads to success without complications.

If the swollen eyelids appear after eating, it may be an intolerance or an allergy. The eyelids swell on their own when the respective ingredient has been digested and there are no further problems.


Often swollen eyelids can be easily avoided. So it can help to drink enough, as this gets the lymph transport going, which prevents swelling and reddened eyes.

The method of placing cucumbers on the eyelids is also proven. The cooling effect and moisture prevent swelling. Furthermore, it can help to gently massage the eyelids regularly and thus stimulate blood circulation. Various care products and ointments are just as suitable for prevention as the home remedies mentioned. However, the best means of prevention is to eliminate the causes. For example, if you suffer from lack of sleep or cry often, you should start there.

Even working at the PC for a long time dries out the eyes and sooner or later leads to swelling. Here it can be enough to relax the eyes regularly. The possibilities of prevention therefore always depend on the causes of swollen eyelids.

What you can do yourself

Whether after waking up or due to allergies, swollen eyelids are unsightly and interfere with vision. Some home remedies are suitable to alleviate the swelling. Decongestant ointments are not absolutely necessary for this. The most effective method is cooling. Gel pads or cooling pads are ideal, often a cold, damp washcloth is enough, which is applied for a few minutes. If you don’t have pads at hand, you can put a teaspoon briefly in the freezer and place the arched side on your eyes. Another successful variant is cold cucumber slices.

Drinking a lot is generally advisable, because it promotes blood circulation, stimulates the metabolism and ensures the removal of accumulated lymphatic fluid, which causes the swelling. Gentle massages with your fingertips can speed up the process. Another home remedy is black tea. For this purpose, those affected must apply cotton balls soaked in cold tea and let them work for a few minutes. Coffee pods are similarly successful. Here it is the tannins contained that accelerate the metabolism and accelerate the removal of lymphatic fluid.

If an allergy such as hay fever is the trigger, the cause must be eliminated. Dust mites can also lead to eye problems. It is helpful to use anti-allergic bedding and wash it as often as possible. Sometimes hormonal changes are the reason for swollen eyelids. Then a doctor’s visit is necessary.

Lisa Newlon
 | Website

Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.