What causes swollen eyelids, and how do you get rid of them?

why is my upper eyelid swollen
Medically reviewed by Dr. Ola Tarabzuni


Imagine waking up in the morning with puffy eyes, feeling itchy and burning in your eyes. You might be wondering if these symptoms are due to an infection or allergy and what steps you can take to get rid of it quickly.  

Swelling on eyelids can be due to various reasons like allergies, inflammation, and bacterial or viral infections. Once you know the underlying cause, you can take the right steps to reduce the upper or lower eyelid swelling at home. However, in some serious cases, visiting a nearby doctor might be necessary for proper evaluation and treatment. This article will focus on treatment for swollen eyelids and how to get rid of them.

Why is my upper eyelid swollen?

Many people can relate to this discomfort caused by swollen eye lids every morning. The feeling of heaviness around the eyes, discomfort and mild pain can make it difficult to engage in your daily chores.

So, if you are looking for ways to get rid of swollen eyelids fast, the first step is to identify the cause. There are various reasons that you might get a swollen upper or lower eyelid. Some common conditions include:

  1. Blepharitis (inflamed eye)

Blepharitis is one of the most common eyelid disorders, and it affects nearly 37 to 47% of people in the US. It is characterized by redness, swelling or burning sensation on the edges of the eyelid, which generally occurs when the oil glands become clogged.  

While blepharitis does not usually affect eyesight, it can lead to other complications like ulcers, infection, injury to the cornea, or chronic pink eye. Therefore, seeking prompt treatment and care is crucial for early recovery.

  1. Stye or hordeolum

One of the reasons you might have an upper or lower eyelid swelling could be a bacterial infection often caused by Staphylococcus aureus – this is also known as stye or hordeolum. 

The most common symptoms are a red, swollen bump on the eyelid with a gritty and scratchy sensation in the eye. While a stye can be painful and irritating at times, proper treatment can resolve the symptoms within one to two weeks.

A quick heads up! Do not rub or squeeze the bump, as the infection might spread to the other eye. Not to mention if you need a proper eye exam or a consultation.

You can consult our highly qualified online doctors right away and get prescription eyedrops and oral medicines for prompt relief.

  1. Conjunctivitis or pink eye

In the case of pink eye, there is mild to severe inflammation of the tissues lining the eyelid and outer eye. Most people experience redness in the eye, irritation, and swelling in the eyelids. More than 80% of acute pink eye cases are viral. However, it can also be caused by a bacterial infection, fungi, or allergen.

If there’s a thick, yellow, or greenish discharge from your eye after sleeping, it might indicate bacterial conjunctivitis. 

  1. Chalazion

Chalazion occurs due to a blocked duct in one of the glands inside the eyelids called the meibomian gland. These glands play an important role in secreting oils onto the surface of the eye, keeping it lubricated and moist. However, once the glands are blocked, they become inflamed, making the eyelid swell and redden. If the chalazion gets large, it can cause pressure on your eye, causing blurry vision. 

Some other causes of swollen eyelids

Swollen upper or lower eyelids can be caused by various other reasons. These may include:

  • Cellulitis: It is an infection of the tissues around the eye characterized by pain, fever, bulging and swollen red eyelids.
  • Shingles: If the chickenpox virus reactivates in your body, it can also cause shingles in the eye. A person might experience painful, swollen eyelids, along with a rash and blisters on the forehead and nose.
  • Graves’ Disease: In Graves’ Disease, the immune system sometimes attacks the muscles or tissues around the eyes, causing swelling, bulging eyes, irritation, and pain during eye movement.
  • Eczema: Although eyelid dermatitis is less common if a person comes in contact with an allergen or irritating substance, it can lead to inflammation of the sensitive skin around the eyes, causing red, itchy, crusty, and swollen eyelids. 

What is the fastest way to heal a swollen eyelid? 

The treatment and care for a swollen eyelid depend on the cause of infection or inflammation. If the swelling is due to a noninfectious cause, like an allergen or insect bite, you can treat it yourself. 

One way to get rid of a swollen red eyelid is to apply a cold compress over your eyes. This will not only reduce the pain and discomfort but also help relieve inflammation and swelling. Moreover, if there’s a sticky discharge or thick crust on your eyelids after you wake up, you can rinse your eyes with warm water or normal saline to loosen the dried-up discharge.

However, in case of bacterial infections like stye, do not hesitate to consult a doctor for appropriate medical intervention. Once you visit a clinic, the doctor will prescribe antibiotic eyedrops or ointments and counsel you on the precautions you should take to prevent further complications. 

As soon as you notice that your symptoms aren’t improving you can get a quick online consultation and a prescription from our qualified doctors.

How can you prevent eyelid swelling?

If you take some preventive measures, you can completely prevent swollen or puffy eyelids. Here are some easy steps to take: 

  • Practice eye hygiene: Wash your hands with soap before and after touching your eyes to prevent the germs from entering your eyes.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes: Even if you suspect any foreign object, avoid rubbing your eyes, as this can introduce bacteria, viruses, or any other germs into the eye, causing inflammation or infection.
  • Use clean towels: One way to prevent eye infections is to regularly wash towels, pillowcases, or clothes that come into contact with your face.
  • Wash your face before bed: Sleeping with makeup on your eyes can lead to irritation and increase the chances of swelling. Therefore, always remove your makeup by washing your face before bedtime.

If anyone near you is suffering from pink eye or any other contagious eye infection, avoid coming in close contact with the infected person, as contagious eye infections like pink eye can spread from person to person. 

What is the difference between puffy and swollen eyelids?

Many people often mix up between puffy eyes and swollen eyelids. However, there are some fine differences between them.

Puffy eyes are mild swelling around your eyes and can occur due to crying or lack of sleep. Other reasons might include stress, fatigue, genetics or even allergies. 

If you have mild swelling around your eyes without any other concerning symptoms like irritation, redness, pain or any discharge, then it’s puffy eyelids, and it can be safely treated at home. You can either place cool cucumbers on your eyes to reduce puffiness or take some over-the-counter antihistamines at home. 

On the contrary, a swollen eyelid is different as it always occurs with a range of symptoms that indicate an underlying condition. Therefore, identifying the proper causes of swollen eyes and knowing the symptoms can help you seek early medical treatment.  

When to consult a doctor for a swollen eyelid? 

A swollen eyelid can normally go away on its own within a few days. But if the swelling doesn’t get better, you need to consult a medical professional. 

Also, keep an eye on the following symptoms, as they might indicate an underlying eye infection or inflammation that requires a doctor’s attention.

  • If there’s pain or persistent discomfort in your eye
  • If your vision gets blurry constantly
  • Pain during eye movement or inability to move your eye
  • Your eyelid is red, tender, or blistered
  • You cannot keep your eyes open. 
You can consult our expert medical doctors for a proper eye exam and have prescription medicines to get prompt relief.

FAQs about swollen eyelids

Can allergies cause swollen eyelids?

Yes! You can get swollen eyes if you’re allergic to pollen, dust, pet dander, cosmetics, perfumes or even certain medications. So, if you experience redness, itchiness or watery discharge in your eyes, you might be having allergic conjunctivitis. The best thing you can do to relieve your symptoms is to use a cool compress to relieve swelling and use over-the-counter eye drops like antihistamines and lubricants.  

Can you get swollen eyelids from COVID?

Yes, COVID-19 can cause inflammation in your eye, which causes your eyelids to become itchy, swollen, red, or feel like they’re burning. Typically, the symptoms can resolve after recovering from COVID-19 and taking over-the-counter eye drops.

What causes dry swollen eyelids?

One of the most common reasons for dry, swollen eyes is blepharitis in which your eyelids become red, swollen, and itchy. Other causes can include wearing prolonged contact lenses or continuous exposure to irritants or allergens.

What can cause you to wake up with swollen eyelids every morning?

Waking up with swollen eyelids can be due to a number of reasons. It might occur due to a viral or bacterial infection causing red, puffy eyes along with itching, discomfort, and a white or yellow discharge. other times, you might notice swollen eyelids due to any other serious reasons like Graves disease or shingles. 

When should I be worried about a swollen eyelid?

If a swollen eyelid doesn’t get better within a day or two, it is recommended to visit a doctor nearby. Also, if you’re experiencing a fever, persistent irritation, vision loss, or pain during eye movement, you need to consult a healthcare professional for a proper eye exam.

Why won’t my swollen eyelid go away?

If your symptoms do not go away within a few days after home care, you might need to see a doctor nearby. Once you’re using the right medicines and taking precautions, the red swollen eyelid might heal within a few weeks, depending upon the cause. 

How do you get rid of swollen eyelids naturally?

You can relieve the pain and swelling in your upper or lower eyelids by applying a cold pack wrapped in a clean towel or cloth for 10 to 15 minutes. Many people also place cold teabags on the eyes, which constricts the eyelids and helps reduce mild swelling. You can also take over-the-counter eyedrops or ointments to relieve symptoms.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Carlisle, Robert Thomas, and John Digiovanni. “Differential diagnosis of the swollen red eyelid.” American family physician 92.2 (2015): 106-112.
  • Weiss, Avery H. “The swollen and droopy eyelid: signs of systemic disease.” Pediatric clinics of North America 40.4 (1993): 789-804.
  • Shaheen, Tahir, Mohammed Sohail Ahmed, and Mohammed Naeem Mohyudin. “Eyelid Disease.” InnovAiT 13.9 (2020): 543-549.
  • Morley, Ana MS, et al. “Use of hyaluronic acid gel for upper eyelid filling and contouring.” Ophthalmic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery 25.6 (2009): 440-444.

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