How to treat a swollen eyelid quickly
There’s never really a “good” time to have swollen eyelids. Whether they’re caused by allergies, an infection or an injury to the face, swelling of the eyelids can drastically alter a person’s appearance.
If you’re in need of swollen eye treatment fast, you’re in the right place. Read on to learn how to treat a swollen eye using a few quick, easy tips.
See an eye doctor
If you really want the fastest way to heal a swollen eyelid, it’s best to skip the online diagnosis and go straight to a professional. An eye doctor will be able to quickly assess your condition, determine the cause of your swollen eyelids and prescribe effective treatment.
If your swollen eyelid is due to an eye injury, seeking medical attention is especially critical to ensure no damage to the eye itself has occurred.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, more eye doctors are offering online eye exams for patients to address eye emergencies from the safety and comfort of their homes. While virtual visits do not replace an actual eye exam, and your eye doctor may still require an in-office visit to get a better look at your condition, it can be a viable option when time is of the essence.
Take an antihistamine
Sudden onset of swollen eyelids may be due to an allergic reaction. Whether it’s an airborne allergen like pollen, or an applied allergen like eye makeup, eyes can swell when histamine is triggered.
Taking an oral antihistamine or applying antihistamine eye drops should reduce eyelid swelling if allergies are to blame. Also note that itching is a common symptom if the cause is related to allergies.
It’s important to note, however, that it’s possible for allergic reactions to be caused by certain eye drops or specific ingredients in some antihistamines, including Benadryl (diphenhydramine). If you have a known allergy to any specific antihistamines, or your swollen eyelids develop after using eye drops, do NOT continue using them.
While an antihistamine may be a quick fix for your swollen eyelids, if the swelling does not go down within a few hours of taking it, it’s best to contact your eye doctor.
Remove contact lenses
When you have a swollen eyelid — or any eye irritation, for that matter — the last thing your eye needs is a contact lens in the mix. Not to mention, if your eyelid is swelling due to an irritant or allergen, contact lenses can trap that irritant against your eye, making the reaction worse.
It’s important to remove your contact lenses and cleanse them thoroughly with a solution recommended by your eye doctor. If you wear daily disposable lenses, toss the day’s contact lenses in the trash and opt for your glasses.
Apply a cold compress
Using an ice pack or a cold washcloth on the affected eye can help reduce eyelid swelling. The cold causes blood vessels to narrow, which limits the amount of blood and fluid reaching the area.
While applying cold items on a swollen eyelid can improve its condition, not everything in your freezer should be used.
Remember this item is going to be placed over your eye, so it should not be so cold or heavy that it causes additional discomfort.
If you have an ice pack filled with gel, it’s important to ensure there are no leaks in the pack, as the gel can contain chemicals that are dangerous to your eyes. Similarly, using frozen or raw meat to place on a swollen or black eye is a bad idea. The meat has the potential to cause a bacterial eye infection, which will only make matters worse.
The best option for a cold compress is a leak-proof sandwich bag filled with ice, but a bag of frozen peas or corn will also work. Whatever you use, it should be wrapped in a clean towel before placing it on your eyelid to avoid localized frostbite to the sensitive skin on your eyelid and around your eye.
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Sleep with your head elevated
Research has shown that poor sleeping habits can lead to premature aging. This applies not only to how much you sleep, but also how well you sleep.
Lying on your back with your head flat allows fluids to settle in your face while you sleep. This leaves many with a puffy face or swollen eyes when they wake the next morning.
One solution is to add an extra pillow beneath your head before you go to sleep. Keeping your head elevated above your heart will allow any fluid to drain to the rest of your body and promote proper blood flow while you rest.
While these tips may temporarily relieve your symptoms, it’s always better to see an eye doctor for an official diagnosis and swollen eyelid treatment — especially if the swelling does not subside after using any of the suggestions listed above.
As mentioned earlier, if you develop swollen eyes following a head or eye injury, you should seek medical attention immediately to ensure the safety of your eyes, vision and overall well-being.
READ MORE: Swollen eyelid FAQ
Page published in October 2020
Page updated in July 2021
Medically reviewed in July 2021