That early morning swollen eyelid could be due to an infection

Dr Shashidhar V S – Consultant-Oculoplasty – Sankara Eye Hospital

Hasn’t it happened with you when you wake up and the first thing in the morning that you spot in the mirror is a bit of swollen eyes or an eyelid swelling? Often that looks like a small usual thing which eventually goes off as we go by our day. However, sometimes the swelling does not go away even after we are up and had enough sleep. While almost everyone is likely to experience swollen eyelids at one time or another, the exact cause of it often remains unsure. Swollen eyelids can affect one or both eyes and may or may not be painful.

Most of the times the swelling in the lid is not a very serious concern, however you must still always check with your  Oculoplastic surgeon to rule out the possibility of any serious infection or health problem that could be associated with such swelling. In certain cases, the swelling of these eyelids could be painful too and could lead to potential sight-threatening problems like orbital cellulitis, Graves’ disease and ocular herpes. Hence a thorough examination with the doctor becomes important.

Sankara Eye Foundation

The terms “puffy eyes” and “swollen eyes” are often seen being used interchangeably. While “puffy eyes” generally describe the physical appearance that is caused because of swollen eyelids; “swollen eyes” mostly refer to an inflammatory response of the eyelids and eye allergy, infection or injury.


Causes for eyelid swelling can range from fluid retention to a serious infection. In most of the cases, the swelling goes away within 24 hours. Some of the reasons for a swollen eyelid include:

  • Allergies
  • Bug bite
  • Fluid retention
  • Conjunctivitis or pink eye
  • Stye or a tender red bump
  • Cyst
  • A blocked oil gland
  • Orbital or pre-orbital cellulitis
  • Inflammation that spreads to the skin around your eyes
  • Injury or trauma (often accompanied by discoloration)
  • Fat prolapse

Certain medical conditions can also cause symptoms of a swollen eye or eyelid. This can also happen in the case of Graves’ disease and eye cancer, although these are rare.


Some of the symptoms of swollen eyes include:

  • Puffy appearance to the eyes
  • Irritation in the eye
  • Itchy or scratchy sensation in the eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Watery eyes
  • Obstruction in the vision (depending on the extent of the swelling)
  • Redness of the eyelid
  • Red eyes and inflammation of the conjunctiva
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Flaking or eyelid dryness
  • Pain (it happens especially when swollen eyelids are caused by infection)


If swelling in the eyelids is accompanied by either of the following, then you must get it checked by the doctor immediately:

  • Pain in your eye
  • Blurry or distorted vision
  • Vision that gets worse
  • Floaters in the vision
  • Feeling that something is stuck inside the eye
  • Inability to move your eye muscle/Seeing double images

It is necessary to consult the doctor because certain conditions which lead to a swollen eyelid require medical attention. For instance, cancers of the eye are rare but they may make it seem like the eyelid is swollen when it is actually pressure from the cancer. And only a medical expert can diagnose the exact cause. Some people prefer to reach out for medical treatment immediately which allows them an accurate diagnosis, least harm and early relief. However, if your swelling doesn’t reduce during the first day, you seek medical help. The swelling can even be reduced with compresses, but treating a swollen eyelid correctly depends on the cause.


If caused by fluid retention, stress, allergies, or lack of sleep, then swollen eyelids can be treated at home as well. For that one can:

  • Use a saline solution to rinse the eyes, if there’s discharge
  • Use a cool compress like a cold washcloth over the eyes. This can be a cold washcloth.
  • Remove contact lenses
  • Elevate your head at night to bring down fluid retention.
  • If allergy is the cause then prescribed eye drops can be used too


Some tips to prevent swollen eyes are:

  • If you get swollen eyelids and other symptoms of allergies regularly then you must get yourself tested for allergies and accordingly avoid specific allergens or minimize your exposure to them.
  • Carefully choose makeup and other beauty products that are hypoallergenic and fragrance-free to help avoid allergic flare-ups.
  • If you wear contact lenses, practice proper hygiene techniques, including frequent replacement of your contact lenses and contact lens case.

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