What causes red eyelids?

Anything that injures, irritates or inflames the eyelid can cause red eyelids. Your eyelids are very sensitive and well supplied with blood vessels and nerves, so even minor irritation or inflammation can cause reddening.

Inflammations or infections that commonly cause red eyelids include allergies, blepharitis (infection or inflammation of the edge of the eyelid), chalazion (blockage of and inflammation in glands near the eyelashes), and stye or hordeolum (infection of an oil gland near the eyelashes). Trauma to the eye area, including burns, sunburn, and blunt force or penetrating injury, can also lead to red eyelids.

Common causes of red eyelids

Red eyelids may be caused by several common conditions including:

  • Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid margin)
  • Burns, including sunburn
  • Chalazion (inflammation of a blocked oil gland in the eyelid margin)
  • Common cold (viral respiratory infection)
  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye surface)
  • Hay fever or allergic reaction from animal dander, dust, cosmetics or pollen
  • Local allergic reactions to makeup or personal care products (contact dermatitis)
  • Stye or hordeolum (localized bacterial infection of an oil gland or eyelash follicle in the eyelid margin)

Serious causes of red eyelids

In rare cases, red eyelids can also be caused by more serious conditions including:

  • Orbital cellulitis (invasive infection of the soft tissues around the eye)
  • Thyroid disease
  • Trauma

Questions for diagnosing the cause of red eyelids

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your eyelid symptoms including:

  • When did you first notice your red eyelids?
  • Does the redness affect one or both eyelids?
  • Have you recently had any injury in your eye area?
  • Are you taking any medications?
  • Do you have any allergies?
  • Have you been around anyone with an eye infection recently?
  • Have you had a similar condition before?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

What are the potential complications of red eyelids?

Red eyelids are generally caused by mild conditions and usually do not result in permanent damage to the eye. In rare cases, red eyelids may be caused by a more serious condition, such as a severe infection or trauma, which can lead to permanent damage to the eye if left untreated.

Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Chronic eye pain or discomfort
  • Loss of the eye and orbit (bone surrounding the eye)
  • Loss of vision and blindness
  • Scarring of the eye
  • Spread of infection


  1. Carter SR. Eyelid disorders: diagnosis and management. American Family Physician. http://www.aafp.org/afp/980600ap/carter.html.
  2. Blepharitis. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002586/.
  3. Tierney LM Jr., Saint S, Whooley MA (Eds.) Current Essentials of Medicine (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011.
  4. Kahan S, Miller R, Smith EG (Eds.). In A Page Signs & Symptoms, 2d ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Williams, 2009.

What are red eyelids?

Red eyelids can result from any condition that irritates, inflames or infects the eyelid. Allergies, infections, and even crying can cause your eyelids to redden. Red eyelids may also result from trauma to the eye area. Red eyelids are commonly associated with other symptoms like itching, swelling, irritation, bumps, increased tearing, or discharge.

Allergies are a very common cau... Read more about red eyelidsintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with red eyelid?

Depending on the cause of your red eyelids, other parts of your body may also show symptoms of illness. A variety of symptoms can commonly occur along with red eyelids.

Common symptoms that may occur along with red eyelids

Red eyelids may accompany other common symptoms including:

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

Popular Eyes and Vision Slide Show