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How to relieve red, swollen eyelids

woman cleaning and treating her swollen eyelid

Treating red, swollen eyelids can include little more than making them more comfortable while you wait for them to get better. Other times, however, swollen eyelids can require medical treatment; either for the eyelids themselves, or for the underlying condition causing redness and swelling.

Treatment depends on the cause of your swollen eyelids. In the case of mild, short-term redness and swelling, the treatments below might offer some comfort until the problem goes away on its own. When symptoms are more moderate or severe, you may need an eye doctor to diagnose the condition and decide which treatment is best.

If you experience eye or eyelid pain, one or two droopy eyelids, sensitivity to light, or your vision has been affected, get medical attention as soon as you can.

SEE RELATED: How puffy eyes are different from swollen eyelids

At-home relief for red, swollen eyelids

If you wear contact lenses, take them out

No matter what’s causing your red, swollen eyes, contacts will almost never improve your comfort level. 

Removing your contacts could provide a little instant relief from the discomfort of red, swollen eyelids by supplying more oxygen and moisture to the surface of your eyes and the underside of your eyelids.

Apply a compress to your eyes

A cold compress like a bag of ice wrapped in a towel or small cloth or a lukewarm compress like a damp washcloth might provide some relief. They can make your eyelid more comfortable by reducing blood flow to the area and reducing swelling.

If you have a stye or chalazion, a warm compress is recommended.

Clean your eyes

If you notice any discharge, cleaning your eyelids and eyes with a saline (salt water) wash or sterile water may soothe your irritation. It can also remove any tiny irritants along your eye or inner eyelid, like an eyelash or dust particle.

In the case of blepharitis, gently cleansing your eyelids can reduce bacteria along with any flaking on the eyelashes or eyelid rim. Prescription medication or premade wipes may be recommended, but eye doctors can also suggest a simple homemade solution with diluted baby shampoo.

Use eye drops

If your symptoms include dry, scratchy or irritated eyes, lubricating eye drops can make them more comfortable by mimicking the function of your natural tears.

Medicated, over-the-counter eye drops are available for allergy-related symptoms, but always check with a doctor before starting any treatment.

Take allergy medication and try to change your environment

Reddish eyes and allergies are a very common combination, but they often go hand-in-hand with one or more hay fever symptoms like sneezing, congestion and runny nose.

If you have itchy eyelids and have a strong suspicion that allergies are causing your redness and swelling (allergic conjunctivitis), over-the-counter allergy or lubricating eye drops should help reduce redness and discomfort.

SEE RELATED: Home remedies for swollen eyelids

What can cause red, swollen eyelids?

Several common conditions can make your eyelids red and swollen. Some of the most common ailments include:

  • Blepharitis

  • Allergies

  • Contact dermatitis

  • Stye 

  • Chalazion 

  • Pink eye

  • Cold, flu, sinus infection or a similar illness

  • Sunburn

In more serious cases, the following conditions can cause redness and swelling of the eyelids:

  • Thyroid dysfunction

  • Severe burns

  • Orbital cellulitis

  • Anaphylaxis

What to do when your eyes are red

When your eye(s) itself is red, it can point to an entirely different set of conditions and illnesses. Some conditions cause redness on the eye and eyelid, but others will limit redness to one or the other.

Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is one example — it can cause swollen, red eyelids and eye redness. Many cases of pink eye resolve on their own, but bacterial pink eye can require antibiotic treatment in some instances.

Other conditions will only cause red eyes, with little to no effect on the eyelids. Like many other symptoms, red eyes can be relatively harmless or represent a more serious condition.

When in doubt, scheduling an appointment with an eye doctor or family physician is your best bet, especially when you’ve never experienced the symptoms before and they don’t go away on their own within a day or two.

READ MORE: Swollen eyelids in toddlers

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