In many cases, we don’t think much of our eyelids. Yes, they are useful every day in helping us blink to clear away debris and letting us close our eyes to sleep, but that doesn’t mean we pay attention to them regularly. However, if we experience a swollen upper eyelid, that can quickly catch our attention.

Depending on the cause of a swollen eyelid, different treatments can be necessary, with some cases requiring antibiotics to get your health back to normal. However, most moments when you experience a swollen upper eyelid will fade over time and are possible to treat at home. 

Keep reading our guide to learn the causes and best ways to tend to a swollen eyelid.

Swollen vs. Puffy Eyelids

The terms puffy and swollen may seem similar, but they are technically different. Puffy eyelids are usually less severe than swollen ones, with fewer gains in size. Puffiness is also often a standalone condition, without any additional symptoms, as swelling can be indicative of happening.

Common causes of puffy eyelids can include:

  • Allergies
  • Genetics
  • Stress
  • Crying
  • Lack of sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration

Puffiness also tends not to need treatment, though you can use techniques like resting or placing cucumbers over your eyes to help with these conditions. Swollen eyelids, on the other hand, tend to have much more significant effects of inflammation, and can cause extreme agitation if you are suffering from this condition.

Causes of swollen eyelids potentially are:

  • Allergies: Having dust or pollen ending up in your eye can cause agitation, which can further lead to swelling. Other types of allergies, such as those to pets, can also cause swelling.
  • Blepharitis: Blepharitis is a type of infection of eye tissue, which will lead to swelling. You can also identify this infection if there is a yellow crust around the eyelashes, and a doctor’s help is usually necessary to treat this condition.
  • Pink eye: Also known of conjunctivitis, pink eye can lead to swelling, as well as discharge, redness, and crust along the eyelids. While it can initially look like an allergic reaction, symptoms worsen over time, and you’ll need medicated eye drops from a doctor to treat it.
  • Insect bites: Bug bites can lead to swollen eyelids as well and are usually identifiable by the presence of red bumps. If you feel uncertain, you can consult a doctor for help.
  • Eye irritation: Aside from allergens, makeup and dirt can get in your eyes, cause irritation, and lead to cases of swelling, which you can effectively treat at home.
  • Chalazion: This term refers specifically to enlargement of oil glands inside your eyes; another critical factor of this condition is that it tends to affect only one eye at once. The enlarged area will look red and appear as a small mound, which may be slightly painful at first, as the gland has something blocking the insides.
  • Sty: Stys are also red and inflamed areas, which are often painful as well. You can also sometimes see smaller pus-filled pumps as well. These will usually clear out over a few days, but you should seek the help of a doctor if it doesn’t.

If you don’t feel as if your swollen upper eyelid matches any of these conditions, you may be experiencing other conditions, such as shingles, hyperthyroidism, or systemic disorders, though these are much less common than the above-outlined methods.

Natural Treatments for Swollen Eyelids

After you’ve looked at your swollen eyelids and confirmed that you could treat it at home, here are some of your options.

Avoid Rubbing Your Eye

Once your eyes start to swell, it can lead to a feeling of irritation—which can, unfortunately, make you want to rub your eye, especially if it feels like something is stuck inside. The biggest downside to rubbing a swollen eye is that you can further agitate it, making it difficult to recover. As such, the best thing you can do is to touch your eye as little as possible.

For those that wear contacts, you should not wear them while waiting for the swelling in your eye to go down. It is especially important to do so if you have an eye infection, as it can contaminate your contact. Likewise, you should also avoid the use of cosmetics when dealing with a swollen eye.

Rinsing Out Your Eye

If you suspect the cause of your swelling is that something has gotten in your eye, rinsing it out can help. However, you should be sure to use something that won’t agitate your eyelid further, such as clean water, eye drops, or even saline solution.

Using a Cold Compress or Washcloth

Due to the nature of swelling, cooling down your eyelid can help start to get your eye back to normal. The best way to go about this is to use a cold compress or wet a washcloth with cold water, then gently rest it over your eyes for several minutes. Doing this multiple times throughout your day can help your eyes recover faster.

If you don’t have the time to rest with a cold compress on your eyes, you can instead splash cold water onto your face throughout your day. Keep your eyes closed as you do this.

Alternatively, if you’ve confirmed that the cause of your swollen eyelid is a chalazion, then using a warm washcloth several times during the day can help instead. This approach is more useful because the warmth can loosen up the oils trapped inside your eyelid; this method can potentially release them and help with the overall swelling. The heat can also help ease the pain if you are feeling any.


While most of us think of sleep as a way to get rest, that’s not all it does for our bodies. Sleeping is also a time for our bodies to recover from any damage we’ve experienced over our days. Taking the time to rest can allow your body to heal, and it can also be a highly effective method if a lack of sleep is one of the causes of your swelling or puffiness.

While you sleep, you can further help by using your cool compression. Additionally, similarly to how you can assist a swollen leg by elevating it to help drain fluids, you can do the same to treat swollen eyelids. It’s recommended to prop up multiple pillows to lie on as you rest, which will help make this treatment possible.

Use Black Tea Bags

As an alternative to a cold compress, you can also place black tea bags over your eyelids. You should first chill the tea bags, as the cold can help, just as a wet washcloth would. The caffeine present in the tea can additionally aid with the swelling go down.

If you’ve already gone and visited a doctor, they may have recommended other treatment options. Be sure to follow any instructions from medical professionals to ease the recovery process.

How to Prevent Eye Swelling

Since eye swelling can be highly uncomfortable, it can be nice to avoid it when you can. You can do simple, everyday things to help keep your eyes healthy and prevent swelling.

Choose Eye Products Carefully

Anything that comes close to or goes inside your eyes can potentially irritate them. As such, you should choose makeup, beauty products, and eye drops that you use carefully. Preservatives are a common ingredient inside eyedrops, but they can potentially cause allergic reactions. It’s best to avoid these, and fragrance-free and hypoallergenic beauty products are better for your eyes.

Even if you take care in choosing a product, it can help to test it before you use it near your eyes, especially since they can be more sensitive. To check that you don’t have an allergic reaction to a product, you can test it on your arm first.

Allergy Testing

Aside from allergies to products, other types of allergies can lead to eye swelling, like those to pollen or animal dander. If you get tested, you can confirm what you’re allergic to, then avoid your allergens when possible. Understanding your allergies can also help you get the right medication you need to reduce the effects of swelling.

Properly Tending to Contacts

Those that care contact lenses are at risk for eye irritation and infection if they don’t properly tend to their contacts. This practice involves correctly using cleaning solutions, as well as regularly replacing lenses and your lens case. It can also help to clean your hands before handling your contacts lenses properly.

When to Visit a Doctor

While you can use many of these options to help treat swollen eyelids, you should still seek help from a medical professional if:

  • Your swelling doesn’t start to go down
  • You begin to feel pain
  • You suspect you have pink eye, blepharitis, or any other type of infection

Additionally, you should go to a doctor if you’re not sure if your swelling is severe or not. Some conditions that cause eyelid swelling can only go away with antibiotics.

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