Eyelid redness, itching and swelling due to irritation, inflammation? Causes and treatment

Eyelid redness, itching and swelling due to irritation, inflammation? Causes and treatment
Photo source: Getty images

Redness of the eyelids can have various causes, of which we think primarily of inflammation or irritation. Microbes and external factors such as dust, smoke or cold are the main causes. There are also other possibilities.

Redness of the eyelid occurs quite often, both in childhood and in adulthood. It is not always caused by a disease. Sometimes it is just a common irritation.

However, if there are other problems associated with the redness, it is not good to wait for examination and adequate treatment.

What causes red and itchy eyelids (upper and lower)?
What diseases affect the eyelids?
Can draughts or allergies be the cause?
What to do for inflamed and swollen eyelids in children and adults?

The eyelids are protrusions of the skin. Their movement has several tasks. One of the most important is to protect the eye from dirt and injury, and therefore from external environmental influences. Together with the tear film, they wash and moisturize the surface of the eye.

In addition, the eyelids regulate the amount of light that hits the retina of the eye.

We distinguish between the upper and lower eyelids (palpebra superior et inferior). Together they meet and join at a point we call the inner and outer corner of the eye. It is at the inner corner that the tear duct is located.

The tears that flow from the tear duct wash the eye so that it does not dry out.

The eyelids contain tiny glands (Meibomian glands) at their edge. Their secretion (sebum) protects the tear film and the surface of the eye ball.

There are approximately 100 of these tiny glands on the edge of the eyelids.

In addition to the tiny glands, the eyelashes (ciliae) protrude from the eyelid margins. Their role is also protective (they protect the eye from the intrusion of dust and small particles as well as excessive glare).

At the roots of the eyelashes there are also tiny sebaceous Zeiss glands.

On the inside, they are covered by a fine membrane, known as the conjunctiva.

They contain circular mimic muscles that close or open the eye slit.

The role of the eyelids, eyelashes:

  1. Protect the eye ball - Blinking is the action of reflexively closing the eye slit. It happens approximately 10-20 times per minute. This action is automatic, but also reflexive, responding to irritation such as strong intense light, dust and touch. Blinking and tear film wash, clean and moisten the surface of the eye ball.
  2. They maintain the physiological environment of the conjunctival sac - They collect a tear film, which includes the sebum of the Meibomian glands, which is then smeared over the eye by blinking.

What are the most common causes of eyelid redness?

We commonly encounter a minor problem when we experience discomfort in the eye area due to external factors.

It is more of an irritation of the eyelid, which may not have any serious consequences. Sometimes it is a starter of inflammation.

By irritation we mean exposure to dust, various small impurities from the air, smoke, draughts, air conditioning (cold air) in household cleaning products.

A well-known example is also peeling and slicing onions, which irritates the eye to the point of excessive tearing.

However, these common causes can be replaced by more serious inflammatory diseases of the eyelid.

This inflammatory disease affects the edges of the eyelids, more precisely the sebaceous glands of Meibomian glands.

Blepharitis is most often caused by infection with staphylococci. These are normally found on the surface of the skin. However, for various reasons, the microflora overgrows and becomes infected.

Examples include:

  • Inadequate eyelid hygiene
  • touching the eyes with dirty hands
  • minor injuries, burns, scalds

In addition to staphylococci, it is possible for inflammation to be triggered by streptococci (Streptococcus aureus), viruses (herpes virus), fungi or parasites.

The risk is the spread of the infection to the skin around the eye and redness around the eye.

In addition to the infectious form, this disease can also be observed for other causes.

Some causes of blepharitis in the table

Meibomian gland dysfunction
  • Dysfunction - non-functioning sebaceous gland
  • blockage of the duct of the gland due to excessive production of sebum, fat
  • dysfunction (excessive or insufficient function)
  • blockage of the duct of the gland, which may subsequently form the basis for infection
  • predisposition in people who have
  • seborrheic dermatitis
  • swelling
  • chronic inflammatory skin disease manifested by excessive sebum production
  • can have various causes, from autoimmunity to sebum disorders and Malassezia yeast and others
  • Psoriasis
  • an autoimmune disease that manifests itself in scales on the skin
  • chronic inflammatory skin disease
  • Common allergies, pollen, dust, dust mites, hair, food, medication
  • but especially atopic dermatitis
  • Eczema - contact form, after using cosmetics, toiletries, pollen allergens, or after taking medicines, antibiotics
Blepharitis has several forms
  1. Blepharitis squamosa
    • formation of scales between the eyelashes
    • reddened eyelid margins
    • chronic course
    • itching, burning, eye fatigue
    • also for uncorrected (and insufficiently corrected) refractive error of the eye (myopia/ hyperopia)
    • diabetes, kidney disease, inflammation of the digestive tract
    • problems aggravated by cold, smoke, smoking, chemicals
  2. Blepharitis ulcerosa
    • especially in golden staphylococcus infection
    • purulent ulcers form
    • pus dries on the eyelashes and forms dried yellow dandruff
    • redness of the eyelid margins
    • swelling
    • eyelashes fall off
    • scarring
  3. viral inflammation - mainly herpes simplex or herpes zoster

In addition, the eyelid is also reddened in the case of barley and lupus.

Read more in the article:
Barley grain on the eye. Why does it form, how is it treated? (Hordeolum + chalazion)

In some cases, several causes are involved at the same time. An example is the occurrence of seborrhea, a dry eye syndrome with associated staphylococcal infection at the same time.

You ask:
Is blepharitis infectious, that is, transmissible from person to person?


Chronic blepharitis/meibomitis

This form takes place over a long period of time. It is subdivided into anterior and posterior according to the occurrence of the underlying problem.

Anterior blepharitis affects the front edge of the eyelid.

The posterior form extends beyond the skin margin and the orifice of the glands to the Meibomian glands. It is also known professionally as meibomitis.

This chronic disease is associated with dysfunction of the sebaceous glands. The course is variable. It can also progress without obvious redness and develop into blepharitis.

In addition, inflammation exacerbates the difficulties of dry eye syndrome, but also, on the contrary, aggravates dry eye, affecting meibomitis or blepharitis.

What exactly is the problem?

Meibomian glands produce sebum. This is a fat that is part of the lipid layer of the tear film.

When you blink, the tear film is evenly applied to the surface of the eye. It forms a slippery layer on the cornea.

When the lipid component is disrupted and the glands are dysfunctional, the surface of the eye dries out rapidly. This results in the typical discomfort and reduced defense of the eye.

People who use contact lenses also have this problem (the liquid component of tears evaporates faster).

What other symptoms can occur with eyelid problems?

Red eyelids are visible on the outside and can therefore indicate a cosmetic problem. But the problems don't stop there.

What other symptoms can occur with eyelid redness:

  • Red eyelid margins
  • redness of the conjunctiva - redness of the eye for conjunctivitis
    • attention in young children in a group, as a common cause of red and swollen eyes in children
    • conjunctivitis is easier to transmit in a group
  • eye pain, eyelids
    • burning
    • cutting
    • itching - especially with allergies
  • discomfort - discomfort in the eye area, rough eye, dry eye
  • feeling of a foreign body in the eye, sand in the eye, behind the eyelid
  • oily eyelid margins
  • scales and drowsiness on the edge and in the eyelashes, their accumulation
    • especially in the morning after waking up, dry, yellow, pale sleepy eyes
    • glued eyelashes
    • peeling of the skin
  • swelling of the eyelids and reduction of the eye slit
  • lump on the eyelid
  • loss of eyelashes at the site of redness, misdirected eyelashes
  • feeling of tired eyes
  • increased tearing
  • increased sensitivity to light
  • blurred, blurred vision

What other eyelid diseases are we familiar with?

In addition to the above, we may encounter more difficulties.

Examples of other eyelid diseases:

  • Meibomianitis - typically a pale foamy secretion is present on the lid margins
    • arises due to retention - blockage of the gland outlet and accumulation of sebum
    • massage can be used to dislodge
    • when the eyelid is turned over, the accumulated yellowish streaks of the eyelid can be seen
    • complication is calcium accumulation and infarction, underblooded part of the eyelid
  • abscesses and phlegmon - local infection of the eyelid, for example, after eyelash plucking, passage of infection from the upper respiratory tract, sinuses
  • trichiasis - turning of the eyelashes opposite the eyeball, which causes irritation (of the cornea and conjunctiva)
  • distichiasis - a congenital form of the disease where two rows of eyelashes are present
  • madarosis (madarosis ciliarum) - a disorder of loss to complete loss of eyelashes
  • pediculosis ciliarum - parasites, lice and visible egg scales on the eyelashes
  • eyelid tumours
  • and other lumps on the eyelids
  • ptosis - drooping of the eyelid, congenital or acquired form, occurs due to various diseases

What can help with red and swollen eyelids? How to treat them?

You ask: What to do for red and swollen eyelids?

Normal irritation, which subsides spontaneously and within a short time, does not require special attention. On the contrary, if the trouble persists and several symptoms are associated, it is necessary to seek medical attention.

The first-contact doctor may be a general practitioner for children and adolescents or for adults. He or she may direct your steps to an eye doctor.

The doctor examines the eyelids, the front segment of the eye, and asks about any problems (takes a medical history). He or she may examine a swab of the eyelid for the presence of bacteria (microbiological examination).

After diagnosis, he or she may then proceed with recommending treatment.

If it is a local infection, medications are given, antibiotics for bacterial inflammation. Examples are drops, gels, ointments, creams. Alternatively, corticosteroids are added to dampen the inflammatory process.

Eye drops to relieve symptoms will also help. These are used to moisten the dry eye.

If red eyelids are a symptom of a systemic disease or other eye problem, the underlying cause must be addressed first.

What will help further and what is the prevention?

  • Warm compresses - a clean swab with adequately cooled liquid is applied to the eyes - for 10 minutes
  • Gentle massage of the eyelids - with compresses, 30 seconds for 5 minutes - helps drain the glands
  • adequate eye hygiene
    • twice a day - cool boiled water and preparations for this purpose, which can be purchased at the pharmacy, in the morning and evening gently wash the eyelids
  • your own toiletries and a towel
  • women should avoid wearing make-up, especially eye make-up and liner, during the period of aggravation
  • the use of contact lenses should be restricted
  • sufficient drinking
  • vitamins (A, C, D)
  • allergy sufferers should limit allergens and intolerant foods

Even if you do not lose visual acuity or vision for this problem, it is necessary to remember that long-term difficulties can lead to unnecessary complications. Moreover, the difficulties are not only aesthetic, but also unpleasant.

Chronic difficulties can lead to scarring of the eyelid, loss of eyelashes, conjunctivitis, long term red eyelids and recurrent barley, wolf'sbane.

Interesting information in the article:
Burdock, an almost omnipotent plant. What are its effects, what is harvested?

fshare on Facebook

Interesting resources

The aim of the portal and content is not to replace professional examination. The content is for informational and non-binding purposes only, not advisory. In case of health problems, we recommend seeking professional help, visiting or contacting a doctor or pharmacist.