How to care for swollen eyes at home
Swollen eyes can occur for a number of reasons, including injury, allergies, illness and even crying. Since treatment may vary for each case, it’s important to know what caused your swollen eyes.
While severe cases of swollen eyes may be due to an underlying condition and should be addressed by an eye doctor, mild cases of swollen eyes may benefit from home remedies such as cool compresses and tea bags, among many other treatments.
The following remedies for swollen eyes at home may help address your condition and provide relief before calling the doctor.
Try a cool compress
A cool compress can help relieve eye inflammation and soothe irritated skin. Place a damp, cool washcloth over eyes for 20 to 30 minutes at a time for relief. An ice pack will work as well — just remember to add a cloth buffer (such as a towel) between your eyes and the ice pack to avoid direct contact with skin.
Cold spoons may also soothe swollen eyes. Place two spoons in the freezer until cold, then hold them over your eyes as you would with an ice pack or cool washcloth. Applying a small amount of pressure with the spoons can help stimulate blood flow and redirect any built up fluid away from the eyes, but remember to be gentle.
Cold cucumber slices and even chilled teething rings have also been used to soothe swollen eyes.
Use tea bags
Tea bags can help reduce eye inflammation due to the tannins and caffeine content. Some varieties like green tea also include an anti-inflammatory compound called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) to help the cause.
For proper use, steep tea and let the bags cool in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so before applying to eyes. Then leave the cool bags on eyes for up to 30 minutes.
Never put hot tea bags over your eyes.
Take over-the-counter medication
Allergy medications as well as pain relievers that are available over-the-counter may help with managing pain and inflammation. Depending on what caused the swelling, one may provide better relief than another.
For swollen eyes caused by an allergic reaction or seasonal allergies, antihistamines such as cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may provide aid.
If swollen eyes were caused by an injury, ibuprofen (Advil) may help bring down swelling and inflammation. Ibuprofen is recommended instead of acetaminophen (Tylenol), as acetaminophen is not an anti-inflammatory medication. However, both ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help with pain relief.
Take a break from cosmetics
Cosmetics and facial cleansers that come close to the eyes could be causing irritation and swelling. If you suspect this is the problem, stop your current makeup or cleansing routine until swelling clears up.
If taking a break from a particular product helps, replace it with hypoallergenic or sensitive formulas. Aside from makeup and cleansers, hair products like hair sprays and gels could also cause irritation.
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Change your diet
Too much sugar can cause inflammation throughout the body, including the eyes. Try to cut back on your sugar intake, and you may notice a difference in eyes that constantly appear swollen.
Hydration is also important for your eye health, so be sure to get enough water every day (at least eight glasses, though this is subjective), and cut back on caffeine and alcohol intake, as these can cause dehydration.
Use eye drops
Lubricated eye drops (natural tears) may help soothe the redness and discomfort that comes with swollen eyes. You can find a large variety of eye drops over-the-counter, but avoid “anti-red” or “whitening” properties, as these can make conditions worse.
For severe swelling and redness, an eye doctor may need to prescribe special eye drops. In any case, be sure to follow directions and avoid underusing or overusing products.
When to see a doctor for swollen eyes
If swollen eyes suddenly appear without an explanation or if they persist despite treatment at home, consider seeing an eye doctor to address the condition. Swollen eyes could lead to worse conditions or an infection if not treated properly.
In some cases, swollen eyes can indicate a bigger issue and require different treatment.
SEE RELATED: Itchy, swollen eyelids
Preventing swollen eyes at home
If you frequently suffer from swollen eyes, avoiding triggers is critical. Regularly taking allergy medications and avoiding irritants such as certain eye makeup, pollen, dust, pet dander and chlorine from swimming pools can help stop the problem of swollen eyes before it begins.
If you play sports, consider wearing protective eyewear like sport glasses or goggles in order to prevent eye injuries that may cause swollen eyes.
For the overall health of your eyes, see an eye doctor once a year for an annual eye exam and evaluation.
Page published in October 2020
Page updated in November 2021