What are the Most Common Causes of Eye Swelling?

K. Gierok

Eye swelling is not only an unsightly condition, but in some cases can be quite painful. In order to treat eye swelling successfully, it is important to first understand how it is caused. Some of the most common causes of eye swelling include pink eye, allergic reactions, and sinus infections. For some, a poison ivy infection may be the cause of their pink eye. Though these conditions are typically quite easily treated, those who do not experience relief from their eye swelling within a few days of treatment should seek immediate medical assistance.

Sinus infections can cause eye swelling.
Sinus infections can cause eye swelling.

One of the most common causes of eye swelling is pink eye. Pink eye is defined as swelling caused by inflammation or irritation of the eye lining. Typically, those who are diagnosed with pink not only experience eye swelling, but may also develop reddening of the whites of the eyes. In addition, patients who are diagnosed with pink eye often have an increase in eye watering, and may experience high amounts of eye drainage. Those suffering from pink eye also commonly suffer from an increased sensitivity to bright lights, and in some cases, may feel like there is a foreign body in the eye. Pink eye requires prescription medications in order to treat completely, and is highly contagious, especially in the early stages of infection.

Allergies can cause swollen eyes.
Allergies can cause swollen eyes.

An allergic reaction is another common cause of eye swelling. Eye swelling can be brought on from a range of allergies, including allergic reactions to pollen, food, and medication. Typically, eye swelling caused by allergic reactions can be easily treated with over-the-counter medications. In some cases, eye swelling caused by an allergic reaction that does not alleviate through the use of over-the-counter medications may require stronger, prescription medications.

A sinus infection has also been found to commonly lead to eye swelling. As the sinuses around the eyes become infected and swell, they result in increased eye pressure. Like pink eye, eye swelling caused by a sinus infection requires prescription medications in order to treat completely.

In some cases, poison ivy infection may lead to eye swelling. In order for this to occur, plant irritants must make direct contact with the eye. This occurs most often when individuals unknowingly touch a poison ivy plant, and then touch or itch their eyes. As with allergic reactions, eye swelling caused by poison ivy infection can usually be successfully treated with over-the-counter creams and lotions. In the most serious cases, medical treatment may be required.

One of the most common causes of eye swelling is pink eye.
One of the most common causes of eye swelling is pink eye.

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Discussion Comments


How does one get pink eye? I heard a terrible rumor that fecal matter in the air causes pink eye. Is there any truth to this?

I sure hope not because pink eye happened to me recently. I didn't have to do much aside from warm compresses and gently washing and wiping away discharge. It basically resolved on its own. But this rumor I heard is awful and I sure how it's not true. I don't even understand how that's possible.


@fBoyle-- Oh wow. I'm sorry you went through something like that. I do get puffy and slightly swollen eyes from pollen allergies sometimes. But it hasn't been so bad that I couldn't open them. After hearing your story though, I'm a bit more scared about being outdoors during pollen season.


I can never forget the time when I visited banana greenhouses in South America. We were looking inside a greenhouse and I don't know what it was, but I developed an allergic reaction. It was either due to the natural gases that form there or perhaps they had recently sprayed the trees. But within a matter of twenty minutes, my left eye was completely shut and my right eye was so swollen that I could barely keep it open.

Needless to say, a visit to the emergency room and several injections of allergy medications later, my eyes opened up again. It was a very scary experience for me and one that I never want to relive.

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