What Causes Swollen Eyelids?


Swelling and inflammation of the eyelids can have a number of causes. Most of these causes are fairly benign. Occasionally swelling is a symptom of a serious illness. Swelling happens as a result of irritation to the membrane coating the inside of the eyelid. This membrane serves the purpose of protecting the eye from bacteria and other foreign objects.


An allergic reaction is the result of an immune system reaction that is unwarrantedly severe. The immune system’s function is to protect the body from harmful substances. In the case of allergies the immune system overreacts to a perceived threat. Allergic reactions often cause eyelids to swell and eyes to itch and well up with tears. Other symptoms of an allergic reaction include swelling in the throat, sneezing, runny nose and hives (itchy red spots on the skin).

Some common allergens are pet dander, pollen, dust, mold and certain foods.


Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus. It is transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person. The herpes virus can cause swollen eyelids as well as cold sores and genital discomfort.


The conjunctiva is a substance that lines and protects the eyelids. Conjunctivitis is a general term used to describe irritation of the conjunctiva. This irritation can be caused by a number of things but the outcome is swelling of the eyelids. Conjunctivitis is usually caused by infection and it is highly contagious. Symptoms consist of redness and swelling around the eyes and yellow discharge from the tear ducts.

Kidney Disorders

Certain kidney disorders cause swelling in the eyelids. One such disorder is nephrotic syndrome. Nephrotic syndrome is a disorder that is secondary to other illnesses. It is the result of damage to the kidneys by other illnesses.

Nephrotic syndrome is characterized by a drop in blood protein levels and a jump in the protein levels in urine. It can be helped by treating the illness that sparked the imbalance in protein levels. Nephrotic syndrome is often caused by diabetes.

Some other symptoms of this disease are swollen hands and feet, fluid retention and appetite loss. Glomerulonephritis is a kidney disease characterized by swelling. It is a rare illness wherein the body does not produce enough urine.

Some symptoms of Glomerulonephritis are swollen eyelids and face, high blood pressure, fever, headache and fluid retention.


A stye is an abscess around an eyelash that causes inflammation. Bacteria enter the eyelid through eyelash follicles. Symptoms of a stye are redness, swelling, a visible abscess and pain at the site of swelling.

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