What is eye swelling?

Swelling around the eyes is a common symptom of allergy, infection, inflammation, or even physical irritation. The medical term for swelling around the eyes is periorbital edema. Eye swelling results from excess fluid (edema) in the soft tissues surrounding the eyes. It may occur in conditions affecting the eye area itself or in association with more generalized conditions, such as colds or hay fever. Only in rare situations do the eyeballs themselves enlarge or swell.

Inflammation of the surface of the eye (conjunctivitis) and inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis) are common causes of swollen eyes. Other common causes include crying, lack of sleep, or excessive rubbing of the eyes. Wearing contact lenses can also result in eye swelling. Depending on the cause, swelling may occur in one or both eyes, and it may be accompanied by redness, pain, itching, excessive tear production, or other types of discharge from the affected eyes.

Allergic reactions can lead to swelling of both eyes and, sometimes, of the entire face, especially in severe cases such as anaphylactic reactions. In rare cases, eye swelling is a symptom of serious infections of the soft tissues around or behind the eye, such as orbital cellulitis. The thyroid condition known as Graves’ disease may be accompanied by swelling of the conjunctiva in addition to bulging eyes (proptosis). Injuries or trauma to the eyes, including corneal abrasions, orbital bone fracture, and foreign bodies in the eye, can all lead to swelling.

Eye swelling can be a sign of a serious condition.Seek prompt medical care if eye swelling is persistent or causes you concern. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you experience eye swelling along with facial swelling, difficulty breathing, or fever, or if you experience eye swelling as a result of head injury or trauma. Other symptomsthat require immediate medical care include swelling around the eye with fever, chills, pus, or redness around the eye. These are symptoms of orbital cellulitis, which, left untreated, can rapidly lead to serious complications, such as meningitis or a blood infection.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with eye swelling?

Eye swelling may be accompanied by other symptoms, depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the eyes may also involve other body systems.... Read more about eye swellingsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes eye swelling?

Eye swelling results from excess fluid in the soft tissues surrounding the eye. Allergic reactions are a common cause of eye swelling. Such reactions may be caused by pollen (hay fever), animal dander, foods, or medicines.... Read more about eye swellingcauses

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Eyes and Vision


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