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Eyelid Swelling


Christopher J. Brady

, MD, Wilmer Eye Institute, Retina Division, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Reviewed/Revised Jun 2021 | Modified Sep 2022
Topic Resources

A person may experience swelling in one or both eyelids. Swelling may be painless or accompanied by itching or pain. Eyelid swelling is distinct from bulging eyes Eyes, Bulging Bulging or protruding of one or both eyes is called proptosis or exophthalmos. Exophthalmos is usually used when describing bulging eyes caused by Graves disease, a disorder causing overactivity... read more Eyes, Bulging , although a few disorders can cause both.


Eyelid swelling has many causes (see table Some Causes and Features of Eyelid Swelling Some Causes and Features of Eyelid Swelling Some Causes and Features of Eyelid Swelling ). It usually results from an eyelid disorder but may result from disorders in and around the eye socket (orbit) or from disorders elsewhere in the body that cause widespread swelling.

Common causes

Less common causes

Less common causes of eyelid swelling include

An overactive thyroid gland can cause bulging eyeballs but does not cause swollen eyelids.



The following information can help people decide whether a doctor's evaluation is needed and help them know what to expect during the evaluation.

Warning signs

When to see a doctor

People with warning signs should see a doctor right away. If pain occurs, people usually want to see a doctor within a day or two so that they can start to feel better.

What the doctor does

Doctors first ask questions about the person's symptoms and medical history. Doctors then do a physical examination. What they find during the history and physical examination often suggests a cause of the eyelid swelling and the tests that may need to be done (see table Some Causes and Features of Eyelid Swelling Some Causes and Features of Eyelid Swelling Some Causes and Features of Eyelid Swelling ).

Doctors ask

  • How long the swelling has been present

  • Whether swelling affects the upper and/or lower eyelids in one or both eyes

  • Whether any injury (including insect bites) or eye surgery has occurred

  • Whether itching, pain, headache, changes in vision, fever, or eye discharge is present

  • Whether symptoms affecting other areas of the body are also occurring

  • Whether the person has disorders (for example, heart, kidney, or liver disease) or is taking drugs (for example, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) that are known to cause swelling or has changes in tolerance of cold or heat that might indicate a thyroid disorder

  • Whether the person is using any drugs in or around the eye

  • Whether there have been any changes in over-the-counter products used on the face or around the eye (for example, new makeup, face creams, or cleansers or new detergent to launder bed linens or towels)

During the physical examination, doctors look for signs of disorders that may affect other parts of the body, but the focus is primarily on the eyes. They look for runny nose and other signs of allergies, toothache or headache, which may indicate a dental or sinus infection, fever, and changes in skin near the eye.

Any eyelid or eye sore is evaluated by using a slit lamp What Is a Slit Lamp? What Is a Slit Lamp? (an instrument that enables a doctor to examine the eye under high magnification). Doctors check the location and color of the swelling and whether the eyelid is tender or warm, whether vision is affected, whether eye muscles are functioning normally, and whether any discharge is present.


In most cases, doctors can determine the cause of eyelid swelling based on the symptoms and the findings during the physical examination, and no testing is needed. However, if doctors suspect orbital cellulitis Orbital Cellulitis Orbital cellulitis is infection affecting the tissue within the orbit and around and behind the eye. Infection can spread to the orbit from sources such as the sinuses around the nose. Symptoms... read more Orbital Cellulitis or cavernous sinus thrombosis Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis Cavernous sinus thrombosis is a very rare disorder in which a blood clot (thrombosis) forms in the cavernous sinus (a large vein at the base of the skull). Cavernous sinus thrombosis is usually... read more , they immediately do computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). If a heart, liver, kidney, or thyroid disorder is suspected, doctors do laboratory tests and sometimes various imaging tests.


The best way to treat eyelid swelling is to treat the disorder that is causing the swelling. There is no specific treatment for the swelling.

Key Points

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