A swollen or puffy eyelid is common. In many cases, the swelling goes away within 1 day.

You can reduce the swelling with compresses, but how you treat a swollen eyelid also depends on its cause. Causes can range from fluid retention to a severe infection.

Several reasons your eyelid may be swollen include:

Some medical conditions can also cause symptoms of a swollen eye or eyelid. They include Graves’ disease and — in rare cases — eye cancer.

To avoid complications, see an eye care professional if the swelling lasts longer than 24 to 48 hours.

You can treat swollen eyelids at home, especially if they’re a result of noninfectious causes such as fluid retention or allergies. If those are possible causes, then swelling will often occur in both eyes.

Tips for at-home relief

  • Use a saline solution to rinse your eyes if there’s discharge.
  • Use a cool compress over your eyes. This can simply be a cold washcloth.
  • Remove contact lenses, if you have them.
  • Place chilled black tea bags over your eyes. Caffeine helps reduce swelling.
  • Elevate your head at night to decrease fluid retention.
  • Try antihistamines if you have allergies.

If your puffy eyes are due to allergies, you can use antihistamine eye drops. For severe allergic reactions, you may need prescription eye drops. Oral antihistamines can also help.

If your eyelids are painful or tender to the touch, the cause is likely an infection or chalazion (stye). It’s important to determine the cause of your swollen eyelid, as treatment options depend on what caused it.

Pink eye (conjunctivitis)

Pink eye is the result of a bacterial, viral, or allergic infection that causes inflammation on the surface of your eye. It can start from one eye and spread to both. Pus or a sticky coating will often appear visible on the eyelashes and in the corners of the eyes.

Treatment

You can clean the sticky and crusty eyelids with warm water and cotton. The eye may get better on its own without treatment, although it may take up to 2 to 3 weeks. During this time, avoid touching your eyes and keep your pillowcases clean.

You’ll also want to stop using eye cosmetics and contact lenses.

Chalazion (stye)

If your upper or lower eyelid is swollen, it could be from a chalazion (stye). A chalazion typically causes a tender bump in the eyelid with localized swelling around the blocked gland. It may become red or inflamed.

It can take a few weeks to clear, and some develop into a hard bump.

Treatment

You can use a warm compress to bring relief and promote healing. The warmth can help with oil secretion and blockage. You can do this three to five times a day.

On occasion, a doctor may recommend prescription eye drops or ointments. If the chalazion continues to linger, the doctor can perform an in-office procedure to drain it.

Avoid using makeup while you have a chalazion.

What to do if it’s an infection

An infection of the skin is called cellulitis. In periorbital or orbital cellulitis, the skin around your eye will become red and may hurt. You’ll need antibiotics to relieve this swelling.

Cellulitis symptoms that indicate the need for emergency treatment include:

Depending on the cause, swollen eyelids take anywhere from a few days to several weeks to clear up.

Be sure to stay indoors when you can if allergies are the cause. If your swollen eyelids are due to crying, try to wash your face before you go to bed.

Some people prefer to seek medical treatment immediately so they can get an accurate diagnosis and, if necessary, antibiotics. Always see a doctor if your bump or swelling does not start to improve after 1 week or if the swelling is worsening.

Emergency symptoms

See a doctor immediately if your swollen eyelids are accompanied by these symptoms:

Certain conditions that cause a swollen eyelid require medical attention. Cancers of the eye are rare, but they may cause the eye to push forward, making it seem like the eyelid is swollen when it‘s actually pressure from the cancer.

Other symptoms to watch out for

Only a doctor can diagnose what’s causing your eyelid to swell. However, it may help if you can note:

  • any difference between the symptoms that came before and the symptoms that came after the swelling
  • when pain is present and when pain is absent
  • whether you have an identifiable lump versus general swelling
  • vision changes, especially double vision