What Conditions Cause Swelling of the Eyes?

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  • Written By: Deborah Walker
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There are more than 70 different conditions that cause swelling of the eyes. The most common causes of eye swelling are conjunctivitis, or pink eye, allergies, blepharitis, styes, cluster headaches, kidney disease, and lupus. Treatments depend on the cause of the swelling and may include antihistamines, antibiotics, oxygen therapy, or dialysis. Corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, or chemotherapy drugs may also be prescribed.

Viral or bacterial conjunctivitis is a very contagious infection that causes swollen, red, burning, and itching eyes. This condition is common among children. Treatment is usually antibiotic ointment or drops. To prevent reinfection, cosmetics and contact lenses used prior to the illness should be replaced.

Many people suffer from indoor and outdoor allergies that cause swelling of the eyes. When an allergy is triggered, the body releases histamines, which make the eyes itchy. It may be difficult to avoid rubbing them. Rubbing will make them more red and itchy and may cause increased swelling. Oral and/or eye drop antihistamines may relieve the itching. A cool compress often helps reduce itchiness and swelling of the eyes.

Blepharitis is an infection that causes eyelid inflammation. The feeling that a foreign object is in the eyes, burning, itching, and swelling of the eyes are some of the associated symptoms. Topical antibiotics may be required. The eyes may feel better after application of over-the-counter eye drops or after washing out the eyes with sterile saline eye wash.


A stye is an infected gland at the base of the eyelid that may cause swelling of the eyes. Some people might be tempted to squeeze or pop the stye. This should be avoided, however, because it may make the infection worse. Warm compresses applied for 10 minutes six times a day might help clear the stye and relieve some of the symptoms. Sometimes an antibiotic is necessary. In severe cases, the stye may need to be drained surgically under general anesthesia.

Cluster headaches may result in eye swelling and pain. Tearing, noise sensitivity, and nasal congestion are also symptoms associated with cluster headaches. Recent research shows that oxygen therapy decreases severe pain caused by this type of headache. Medications may or may not relieve pain. Cool compresses and decongestant might lessen swelling of the eyes and congestion.

The kidneys are responsible for removing liquid waste from the body. Diabetic nephropathy, glomerulonephritis, and end-stage kidney disease are all conditions of the kidneys with eye swelling as part of their symptom constellations. The stage of kidney disease determines treatment. Possible treatment options may include medication, dialysis, or kidney transplant.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) can cause hair loss, headaches, blood in the urine, or swelling of the eyes. This is a chronic condition that waxes and wanes throughout a person's life. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, including indomethacin and ibuprofen, may be used to treat SLE. The chemotherapy drugs methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine are possible treatments for lupus as well.


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Post 3

I'm a crier. I tend to cry at the drop of a hat and whenever I do, my eyes swell up. I dislike it because then it becomes impossible to hide from others that I've cried. They know right away, especially my mom. I usually wear sunglasses when that happens and use concealer around my eyes.

It's kind of interesting why our eyes swell when crying. I almost feel like it should be the opposite. Does anyone know why this happens? Is it because of the tears that fill up the glands around the eye? Or is the eye straining a lot while crying?

Post 2

My daughter had pink eye soon after she was born. The poor thing had swollen, red eyes. I was so worried but her doctor said that it's very common in newborns. Sometimes bacteria enters babies' eyes during birth and causes newborn conjunctivitis. Thankfully, it cleared up quickly.

Post 1

I hate allergies. One of the most annoying symptoms of seasonal allergies for me are leaky eyes. My eyes also swell up. So I look like a gold fish. But that's not all, I also sneeze what seems like every few minutes and have a runny, stuffy nose too. Breathing is difficult, vision becomes blurry and I just want to sleep.

Allergy medications help but the ones with antihistamines work best. The issue with those is that they cause drowsiness so I can't really use them at work. At least not if I don't want to be found snoozing at my desk by my boss and get fired.

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