Eyelid Symptoms

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Introduction

What are the signs of eyelid problems?

Any disease or condition that affects your eyelids can cause eyelid symptoms. Eyelid symptoms commonly include redness, swelling, irritation, growths, and loss of eyelashes.

Inflammations or infections that commonly cause eyelid symptoms include allergies, blepharitis (infection or inflammation of the edge of the eyelid), chalazion (blockage of and inflammation in glands near the eyelashes), and stye (infection of an oil gland near the eyelashes). Other causes of eyelid symptoms are skin conditions such as actinic keratosis, a condition caused by sun damage, and both benign and malignant tumors. Trauma to the eye area, including blunt force or penetrating injury, can also lead to eyelid symptoms. A less common but important eyelid symptom is the characteristic retraction of the eyelids seen in Graves’ disease (type of hyperthyroidism), which leads to wide-open eyes that appear to be staring in a fixed gaze.

Most conditions that affect the eyelids do not threaten your life or vision, although they may be uncomfortable. Many common eyelid symptoms will resolve on their own. However, some causes of eyelid symptoms, including trauma and severe infection, can be serious and require immediate medical care. Your vision is important to your quality of life, so be sure to contact your health care provider for any eye symptoms that cause you concern.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have serious symptoms such as sudden changes in your vision, high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), painful red or purplish swollen eyelids, or if your eyelid symptoms were caused by trauma.

If your eyelid symptoms are persistent or cause you concern, seek prompt medical care.

Symptoms

What other symptoms might occur with eyelid symptoms?

Depending on the cause of your eyelid symptoms, other parts of your body may also show symptoms of illness. A variety of symptoms can commonly occur along with eyelid symptoms.

Common symptoms that may occur along with eyelid symptoms

Eyelid symptoms may accompany other common symptoms including:

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, eyelid symptoms may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have eyelid symptoms along with other life-threatening symptoms including:

  • Blunt force trauma to the eye or bones around the eye

  • Bulging eyes

  • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)

  • Inability to turn the eye

  • Painless bump on the eyelid that continues growing

  • Penetrating eye trauma, in which a projectile or sharp object enters the eye

  • Severe headache

  • Sudden change in vision, loss of vision, or eye pain

  • Sudden swelling of the face, lips or tongue

Causes

What causes eyelid symptoms?

Anything that injures, irritates or inflames the eyelid can cause eyelid symptoms. Your eyelid is very sensitive and is well supplied with blood vessels, so it can become inflamed easily.

Inflammations or infections that commonly cause eyelid symptoms include allergies, blepharitis (infection or inflammation of the edge of the eyelid), chalazion (blockage of and inflammation in glands near the eyelashes), and stye (infection of an oil gland near the eyelashes). Other causes of eyelid symptoms are skin conditions such as actinic keratosis, a condition caused by sun damage, and both benign and malignant tumors. Trauma to the eye area, including blunt force or penetrating injury, can also lead to eyelid symptoms.

Common causes of eyelid symptoms

Eyelid symptoms may be caused by several common conditions including:

  • Actinic keratosis (skin damage caused by sun exposure)

  • Allergic reactions

  • Bacterial infections of the eye or eyelid

  • Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid margin)

  • Chalazion (inflammation of a blocked oil gland in the eyelid margin)

  • Common cold (viral respiratory infection)

  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye surface)

  • Cysts (filled with fluid or cellular material)

  • Skin changes that appear with aging

  • Stye or hordeolum (localized bacterial infection of an oil gland or eyelash follicle in the eyelid margin)

Rarer causes of eyelid symptoms

Eyelid symptoms can also be caused by rarer conditions including:

  • Ectropion (malposition of the eyelid in which the eyelid margin turns outward from the eye surface)

  • Entropion (malposition of the eyelid in which the eyelid margin turns inward toward the eye surface)

  • Graves’ disease (type of hyperthyroidism resulting in excessive thyroid hormone production)

  • Infestations by parasites, such as scabies

  • Orbital bone fracture (fracture of the bone surrounding the eye)

  • Orbital cellulitis (invasive infection of the soft tissues around the eye)

  • Various types of skin cancer such as basal cell carcinoma

Questions for diagnosing the cause of eyelid symptoms

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your eyelid symptoms including:

  • When did you first notice these eyelid symptoms?

  • Are you taking any medications?

  • Do you have any allergies?

  • Have you been around anyone with an eye infection recently?

  • Have you had a similar condition before?

  • What do the eyelid symptoms feel like?

  • What other symptoms do you have?

What are the potential complications of eyelid symptoms?

Eyelid symptoms are generally caused by mild conditions and usually do not result in permanent damage to the eye. However, eyelid symptoms may be caused by serious conditions, including cancer, severe infection, trauma, or Graves’ disease. Left untreated, these conditions can be vision threatening or even life threatening. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Chronic discomfort or pain

  • Eyelid malposition

  • Loss of the eye and orbit (bone surrounding the eye)

  • Loss of vision and blindness

  • Scarring of the eye

  • Spread of cancer

  • Spread of infection

  • Severe discomfort or pain

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2018 Dec 28
  1. Carter SR. Eyelid disorders: diagnosis and management. American Family Physician. http://www.aafp.org/afp/980600ap/carter.html.
  2. Blepharitis. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002586/.
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