Periorbital Edema

Medically reviewed by Ann Marie Griff, OD on July 5, 2017Written by Erica Cirino on July 5, 2017

What is a periorbital edema?

Periorbital edema is a term for swelling around the eyes. The area around the eyes is called the eye socket or eye orbit. Sometimes people refer to this condition as periorbital puffiness or puffy eyes.

You can have periorbital edema in just one eye or both at the same time.

Pictures of periorbital edema

What causes a periorbital edema?

The main cause of periorbital edema is inflammation that causes fluid buildup around the eye. This condition can come on quickly (acutely) or over an extended period of time (chronically). Some common causes for periorbital edema include:

mononucleosis“Mono” is a viral disease that can cause periorbital edema in the early stages of infection.
irregular sleepToo little or too much sleep can cause fluid retention.
high-salt dietConsuming lots of salty foods can lead to fluid retention.
high alcohol consumptionAlcohol can cause dehydration, which can lead to fluid retention.
smokingSmoking cigarettes can lead to hormonal imbalances causing fluid retention.
allergiesAllergic reactions can cause inflammation of the small blood vessels (capillaries) around the eyes.
skin disordersSkin disorders that cause skin inflammation can result in periorbital edema.
agingGetting older naturally causes the body to lose more water throughout the day, and this can cause fluid retention.
crying Crying irritates the eyes, causing inflammation that can result in temporary periorbital edema.
thyroid disordersThyroid problems such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause fluid retention in the body, including around the eyes.
periorbital cellulitisPeriorbital cellulitis is a serious skin condition caused by infection and inflammation of the eyelid and the skin around the eyes. This can result in periorbital edema. This condition may require emergency treatment if symptoms last beyond two to three days.
Chagas diseaseThis infection is caused by a tropical insect called a kissing bug. It can cause swelling on one side of the body. The swelling usually isn't painful.
nephrotic syndromeThis condition is caused by problems in the kidneys, which cause fluid retention.
trichinosisThis is a condition caused by a roundworm found in some raw or undercooked pork, and can cause inflammation of the eyes.
dysfunctional tear glandsClogged or malfunctioning tear glands can cause inflammation around the eyes.
obstruction of the superior vena cavaAn obstruction of part of the heart called the superior vena cava can cause blood to build up in body parts above the heart, resulting in periorbital edema.
conjunctivitisAlso called pink eye, this viral disease causes inflammation and redness of the eyes.
trauma to the eyeAny injury near the eye socket can cause inflammation and redness of the eye orbit, resulting in periorbital edema.

How is periorbital edema diagnosed?

Your doctor will try to determine the underlying cause of the inflammation. They’ll ask you questions about your medical history and perform a physical exam. Depending on your symptoms, they may also order additional tests such as:

How is periorbital edema treated?

Treatment of each case of periorbital edema depends on the cause. Generally, the following home treatments are recommended for all cases of periorbital edema:

  • following a low-salt diet
  • increasing water intake
  • placing a cold compress on your eyes for a few minutes at a time

Some commonly prescribed medical treatments include:

Corticosteroids

Applied topically or taken orally, these can help reduce inflammation around the eyes.

Anti-inflammatory medications

Also applied topically or taken orally, these can reduce inflammation and pain.

Antihistamines

These help stop allergic reactions.

Adrenaline or epinephrine

These are used when emergency life-saving treatment is needed to address an anaphylactic reaction.

Antibiotics

These treat infections that can cause periorbital edema.

What is the outlook for periorbital edema?

Periorbital edema can be an uncomfortable condition that reduces your ability to perform everyday tasks. But with time, medical treatment, and home care, you can completely recover from this condition.

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