Periorbital edema is swelling of the tissues around the eyes due to the build up and accumulation of fluids. It is often not considered as a disease in itself, but rather as a sign of an underlying disorder. Individuals with problems in the kidneys, heart, and liver are at high risk for developing edema around the eyes as well as in other parts of the body, such as the legs and feet.
The accumulation of fluids around the eyes is frequently caused by several medical conditions. In congestive heart failure, for example, the heart’s inability to effectively pump out blood lessens the amount of blood supply to the kidneys. When lesser amounts of blood are going to the kidneys, the cells in the kidneys are often affected. This frequently results in the kidneys' inability to filter out water properly, thus leading to the accumulation of water in the tissues. Other conditions leading to periorbital edema are kidney failure, nephrotic syndrome, and liver diseases.
Nephrotic syndrome is a kidney disorder where patients have low levels of proteins in the blood because they are losing it through the urine. Children suffering from nephrotic syndrome often present with periorbital edema. Not all children with this condition, however, are suffering from nephrotic syndrome. Other causes in children include eye infections and allergy.
Swelling around the eyes is generally pronounced upon waking up, mostly because of the effect of gravity when lying down. It is often asymptomatic in nature, or do not usually show any symptoms. Some cases however, can become severe and interfere with normal eye opening and reduction of visual field. In such cases, the conjunctiva, or the white portion of the eye, often becomes red or inflamed. Inflammation of the eyes may lead to crusting, become painful, and cause difficulty in opening of the eyes after sleeping.
A heart doctor, kidney doctor or gastrointestinal doctor can manage patients with periorbital edema. Patients with periorbital edema are often subjected to a battery of tests to rule out the possibility of heart, liver, and kidney problems. Doctors often treat patients with periorbital edema by addressing the underlying disease first. They usually recommend reduction in the intake of foods rich in salt or sodium. Some patients are also given diuretics, a group of drugs that promote water excretion, in order to help the body get rid of the excess fluids.