What causes eyelid swelling?

Although eyelid swelling can be due to relatively mild conditions, such as a blocked oil gland, swelling can also be caused by serious or life-threatening conditions, such as anaphylactic shock, that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting.

Infectious causes of eyelid swelling

Eyelid swelling can be due to a variety of infections including:

  • Bacterial or viral conjunctivitis
  • Blepharitis (infected eyelash follicle)
  • Cellulitis (skin infection)
  • Dacryocystitis (infected tear duct)
  • Herpes virus infection
  • Mumps
  • Orbital cellulitis (acute infection of the area surrounding the eye)
  • Stye (also called a hordeolum, infected oil gland)

Allergic causes of eyelid swelling

Eyelid swelling can be due to mild to serious allergic reactions including:

  • Insect bite allergy, such as bee sting
  • Hay fever or allergic reaction from animal dander, dust, cosmetics, or pollen
  • Drug allergy, such as penicillin or codeine
  • Anaphylactic allergic reaction to any substance

Traumatic causes of eyelid swelling

Eyelid swelling can arise from injury or trauma including:

  • Facial burn or other trauma
  • Facial surgery
  • Eye injury
  • Eye surgery
  • Foreign object

Other causes of eyelid swelling

Eyelid swelling can be due to various other conditions including:

  • Cavernous sinus thrombus (blood clot in the cavity at the base of the brain)
  • Chalazion (blocked oil gland)
  • Fluid retention, such as during pregnancy
  • Hereditary angioedema
  • Hyperthyroidism (Graves’ disease)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Kidney disorders
  • Pre-eclampsia (a serious condition marked by swelling, high blood pressure, and protein in the urine that can develop during pregnancy)

Questions for diagnosing the cause of eyelid swelling

To diagnose the underlying cause of eyelid swelling, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your symptoms. You can best help your health care practitioner in diagnosing the underlying cause of eyelid swelling by providing complete answers to these questions:

  • Describe the swelling. When did the swelling start? Does it come and go or is it constant?
  • Did you eat any foods or come in contact with any unusual substances preceding the swelling?
  • Are any other areas swollen?
  • Provide your full medical history, including all medical conditions, surgeries and treatments, family history, and a complete list of the medications and dietary supplements that you take.

What are the potential complications of eyelid swelling?

Complications associated with eyelid swelling can be progressive and vary depending on the underlying cause. Because eyelid swelling can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in complications and permanent damage. It is important to visit your health care provider when you experience any kind of persistent swelling or other unusual symptoms. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, following the treatment plan outlined by your doctor can help reduce any potential complications including:

  • Chronic discomfort or pain
  • Loss of sight (blindness)
  • Loss of the eye and orbit (structures surrounding the eye globe)
  • Spread of infection to other parts of the body, including the blood


  1. Angioedema. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000846.htm.
  2. Eye cancer. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/eyecancer.html.
  3. Eyelid swelling. Merck.  http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/sec09/ch098/ch098f.html.

What is eyelid swelling?

Eyelid swelling is the enlargement of either or both the lower and upper eyelids. It is due to fluid buildup or inflammation in the delicate tissues surrounding the eye. Swollen eyelids may also be referred to as puffy eyes or puffy eyelids.

A variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions can lead to eyelid swelling. Swelling can result from infections, inflammati... Read more about eyelid swellingintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with eyelid swelling?

Eyelid swelling may occur with other symptoms depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, eyelid swelling due to a blocked oil gland (chalazion) may not be accompanied by any other symptoms; whereas, eyelid swelling due to a mild allergic reaction can be accompanied by sneezing and watery, itchy eyes.

Eyelid swelling happen often after facial injuries or ... Read more about eyelid swellingsymptoms

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 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: Infections and Contagious Diseases, Sinusitis

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