Red Swollen Eyelid – Steps You Should Take

What Causes a Red Swollen Eyelid?


At some point, most of us have experienced the discomfort of a red, swollen eyelid. It can be painful, itchy, and embarrassing. But what causes your eyelid to swell up? There are many reasons why an eyelid can become irritated. The two most common culprits behind your red, swollen eyelid are either infection or allergies.

Many types of infections can occur in the eye, but Conjunctivitis is the most common-especially in those who wear contact lenses. This infection is more commonly known as “pink eye”. Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is a thin membrane that lines our eyelids and exposed parts of the eye. When the conjunctiva becomes infected or irritated it swells, turns red, and itches. Although there are several home remedies such as warm compresses and herbal remedies, it is always best to seek professional medical treatment from an eye doctor if you suspect you may have an eye infection. Your eye doctor will assess your eye and determine the cause of the infection and may also prescribe prescription eye drops to heal your infected eye.

Another common infection that can cause a red, swollen eyelid is the sty. A sty occurs when an oil gland becomes blocked. The oil continues to build up in the gland and pushes outward forming what looks like a hard white or yellow pimple. Stys most commonly occur at or around the eyelashes and can cause swelling of the eyelid and surrounding areas. A sty goes away once the oil gland becomes unblocked. A sty is not usually a serious infection and typically resolves on its own. However, there are several steps you can take at home if a sty is causing you discomfort. A warm compress placed on the sty will help open the oil gland. This can be done several times a day until the sty disappears. You can also cleanse the affected area with baby shampoo and a warm washcloth. Both methods can be repeated as often as necessary.

For many people, allergies cause red, swollen eyelids on a daily basis. When you are exposed to an allergen such as pollen or dust, your body’s immune system releases a chemical called histamine. Histamine causes your eyes to become red, swollen, and itchy. You may also experience tearing of the eyes. There are many over the counter remedies for allergies. Pills, liquids, nasal sprays, and eye drops are all available to treat your specific allergy needs. The one thing all of these medications have in common in that the contain an anti-histamine. This ingredient is essential because its function is to get rid of or reduce any swelling or redness you may be experiencing. If over the counter medications do not relieve your symptoms, or your allergies are severe, you should speak with your doctor. Your doctor can prescribe stronger prescription allergy medication.

Another possible cause of a red, swollen eyelid in that of a foreign object in the eye.  Typically this excludes eyelashes, which generally only cause minor irritation.  Foreign objects such as debris, dust, sand, and even pieces of metal can become stuck under the top eyelid.  When this happens, your eye will become red and irritated.  It may also water and swell.  This is your eye’s attempt to dislodge the object.

More often than not, small particles of dust and debris can make your eye feel itchy and rubbing the eye will only make the swelling and irritation worse.  You can try to remove the irritant by rising your eye with water.  Holding up the top eyelid and irrigating it with water may dislodge the object.  However, if your eye is red, even water may burn as you wash out the eye.  If you have an object stuck under the lid that is larger than dust, you should seek medical attention so that your doctor can remove it safely without damaging the eye.

Trying to remove an object yourself with tweezers or other tools is never recommended.  You can do serious damage to your eye and that damage will only worsen your discomfort and possibly damage your vision.
We have discussed several issues that may be causing your red swollen eyelid.  While you may use a warm compress for any of these situations, it is always best to consult your physician should your eye become red and swollen.  Only your physician can determine the root cause of the inflammation and he or she will discuss the best course of treatment for you.

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