Red Eyelids

Was this helpful?

What are red eyelids?

Red eyelids can result from any condition that irritates, inflames or infects the eyelid. Allergies, infections, and even crying can cause your eyelids to redden. Red eyelids may also result from trauma to the eye area. Red eyelids are commonly associated with other symptoms like itching, swelling, irritation, bumps, increased tearing, or discharge.

Allergies are a very common cause of red eyelids. An allergy that affects your eyelid may be local, such as an allergic reaction to eye makeup, or more generalized, such as hay fever. Allergies that involve the membrane lining the inside of your eyelids and covering the whites of the eyes are called allergic conjunctivitis.

Infections or inflammations of the eyelid margin, the area near your eyelashes, are also frequent causes of red eyelids. These conditions include blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid margin), chalazion (inflammation of a blocked oil gland in the eyelid margin), and stye or hordeolum (localized bacterial infection of an oil gland or eyelash follicle in the eyelid margin).

Most conditions that affect the eyelids do not threaten your life or vision, and red eyelids usually get better on their own within a few days. In rare cases, red eyelids can be associated with anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, or orbital cellulitis, a serious infection of the skin around the eyes. Because your eyes and vision are vital to your quality of life, be sure to contact your health care provider if you have any eye symptoms that cause you concern.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if your red eyelid symptoms are accompanied by more serious symptoms including high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), eye pain, sudden vision changes, double vision, difficulty breathing or wheezing, or sudden swelling of the face, lips and tongue.

Seek prompt medical care if your red eyelids are persistent, recurrent, or cause you concern.

What other symptoms might occur with red eyelid?

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

Common symptoms that may occur along with red eyelids

Red eyelids may accompany other common symptoms including:

  • Bleeding or bruising

  • Blurry vision

  • Burning feeling in the eyes

  • Crusting of the eyelid margin

  • Discharge from the eyes

  • Drooping of the eyelids (ptosis)

  • Gritty feeling

  • Itchy eyes

  • Runny nose (nasal congestion)

  • Sneezing

  • Swelling of the face

  • Tear film abnormalities

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, red eyelids may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious or even 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 red eyelids along with other life-threatening symptoms including:

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

  • Bulging eyes

  • Double vision

  • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)

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

  • Respiratory or breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing, wheezing, not breathing, choking

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

  • Sudden swelling of the face, lips or tongue

What causes red eyelids?

Anything that injures, irritates or inflames the eyelid can cause red eyelids. Your eyelids are very sensitive and well supplied with blood vessels and nerves, so even minor irritation or inflammation can cause reddening.

Inflammations or infections that commonly cause red eyelids include allergies, blepharitis (infection or inflammation of the edge of the eyelid), chalazion (blockage of and inflammation in glands near the eyelashes), and stye or hordeolum (infection of an oil gland near the eyelashes). Trauma to the eye area, including burns, sunburn, and blunt force or penetrating injury, can also lead to red eyelids.

Common causes of red eyelids

Red eyelids may be caused by several common conditions including:

  • Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid margin)

  • Burns, including sunburn

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

  • Common cold (viral respiratory infection)

  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye surface)

  • Hay fever or allergic reaction from animal dander, dust, cosmetics or pollen

  • Local allergic reactions to makeup or personal care products (contact dermatitis)

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

Serious causes of red eyelids

In rare cases, red eyelids can also be caused by more serious conditions including:

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

  • Thyroid disease

  • Trauma

Questions for diagnosing the cause of red eyelids

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 your red eyelids?

  • Does the redness affect one or both eyelids?

  • Have you recently had any injury in your eye area?

  • 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 other symptoms do you have?

What are the potential complications of red eyelids?

Red eyelids are generally caused by mild conditions and usually do not result in permanent damage to the eye. In rare cases, red eyelids may be caused by a more serious condition, such as a severe infection or trauma, which can lead to permanent damage to the eye if left untreated.

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 eye pain or discomfort

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

  • Loss of vision and blindness

  • Scarring of the eye

  • Spread of infection

Was this helpful?
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 8
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Carter SR. Eyelid disorders: diagnosis and management. American Family Physician.
  2. Blepharitis. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH.
  3. Tierney LM Jr., Saint S, Whooley MA (Eds.) Current Essentials of Medicine (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011.
  4. Kahan S, Miller R, Smith EG (Eds.). In A Page Signs & Symptoms, 2d ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Williams, 2009.