What are Swollen Eyes?

Swollen eyes are a common symptom that can be related to a variety causes, anywhere from allergies to ocular trauma. In many cases, the swelling is short term and will resolve itself within 24 hours. Swelling can also be reduced by applying a compress, but the course of treatment will also depend on the cause.


Swelling can occur from fluid retention within the eyelid, due to fatigue, or due to strain on the eye such as computer use or crying. In these cases, swelling should resolve itself within 24 to 48 hours. If swelling presents alongside pain, the cause may be an infection, cyst, or stye. See an eye doctor to diagnose this swelling, since treatment options depend on its cause.


A stye or chalazion could cause your upper or lower lid to swell, and usually presents in the middle portion of the lid. For relief, you may need to place a warm compress over your eye four to five times a day, as this can help with oil secretion and blockage. If this does not resolve, then it can turn into an infection. This minor infection at the base of the eyelid near the eyelashes is known as hordeolum. A hordeolum can be internal or external, and often presents as a well-defined red bump. Like a chalazion, the hordeolum may persist for a few weeks and can be treated with warm compresses but will need medications as well. Avoid wearing makeup when you have a stye, as this can increase irritation and cause reinfection.


Swollen eyes can also be caused by bacterial, viral (pink eye), or allergic conjunctivitis. This causes inflammation on the surface of your eye and can be present in one or both eyes. Often, swollen eyes due to conjunctivitis are accompanied by sticky discharge on the eyelashes and in the corners of the eye. Avoid using contact lenses and cosmetics if you suspect you have pink eye, as not only can this further irritate the eye, but the infection can spread and infect these items if they come into contact. Clean sticky eyelids with warm water, avoid touching eyes, and keep pillowcases clean. If symptoms persist, see your optometrist as you may need a prescription or further treatment.


Skin infection (cellulitis) around the eye can also cause your eyes to swell. In this case, the skin around the eyes will swell, becoming red and painful. Antibiotics will be necessary to relieve the eye swelling. If you are experiencing eye swelling alongside a high temperature, nausea, dizziness, shaking, confusion, vision changes, or an inability to move the eye, you should seek emergency treatment.


In many cases, if you are experiencing a swollen eye, you can take steps to remedy it at home. Rinse your eyes with a saline solution, place a compress (such as a wet washcloth) over your eyes, remove contacts, and elevate your head overnight to reduce fluid retention. If you find these remedies are not reducing your eye swelling, then seek help from an optometrist for an examination.


If your swollen eye is accompanied by pain in the eye, blurry or distorted vision, worsening vision, floaters in your vision, a feeling that something is stuck inside your eye, or the inability to move your eye muscle, you should seek medical attention immediately.


If you are experiencing swollen eyes, book an appointment with your eye care provider. Your optometrist is best suited to properly diagnose swollen eyes and recommend the best course of treatment.


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