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9. Optic Nerve
Swollen Eye Lids
The most common sites for allergic eye problems include the conjunctiva (a clear thin membrane that covers the white part of the eye) and eye lids, which are exposed to the environment and have immune reactive cells. Signs of an allergic eye reaction may include swelling of the eye lids, tearing, itching, sensitivity to bright lights and chemosis – a reaction to chemicals like make-up and hair spray. Antihistamines (H1 receptor antagonists) are known to be the most used and most useful medicines for allergic reactions of the eye as well as whole body.
Many women have changes to their eyes and surrounding ocular tissues related to their menstrual cycle. Swollen eye lids, tearing and even decreased visual acuity and discomfort with contact lens use can occur. These variations may be the result of varying estrogen levels (both high and low, Serrander and Peek, 1993).
However, Swollen eye lids are not always caused by allergies. Thomasse and colleagues (1999) note that children can have swollen eye lids and puffy faces as the result of nephrotic syndrome (kidney disease where there is lots of protien in the urine). Luckily there is specific and effective treatment for nephrotic syndrome available if the urinalysis confirms the diagnosis. For more on nepharotic syndrome, go to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases information clearing house (remember to return now!)
Finally, one should realize that whole body disease (i.e., systemic disease) may also show itself in or around the eyes first. One common systemic disease is Thyroid eye disease (Grave's disease), an autoimmune disorder. Want to hear something really strange? A person can have thyroid eye disease and not even have a thyroid.
Q Swollen Eye Lids
Eye lid swelling may be caused by a number of factors including ocular allergies, infections, neurological disorders and trauma. The eye lids are the most common sites for ocular allergies which may be triggered by drugs, cosmetics, insect bites and even sun light. Even if cosmetics are not applied directly to the eye lids, they may nevertheless cause eye lid inflammation (called Eczema) because of indirect contact via rubbing of the eye lids or during sleep when cosmetics are rubbed-off of the face onto the pillow and onto the lids. Contact allergies are usually caused by cosmetics and drugs. The eye lids reflect diseases which primarily affect the skin, including Psoriasis. More serious neurological problems associated with lid swelling include hyperthyroidism (Graves disease), orbital cellulitis, orbital tumors and syphilis. Individuals may also simply have a predisposition for swollen eye lids which may worsen with sleep, when the head is in a sublime position and blood flow is increased to the facial area. See your eye doctor if you are concerned about swollen eye lids, particularly if the swelling is associated with any other symptom such as redness, pain, double vision, reduced vision or if you feel a lump on the eye lid. Also seeStye in this section.
Q. I have a Stye (or Sty) in my eye, why?
A Stye (external hordeolum) is caused by bacterial infection, typically Staphylococcus aureus. There is usually painful swelling of the eye lid, that usually becomes localized with outbreaks along the eyelash line. Styes usually respond well to hot moist compresses ( 4 times/day for 15 minutes). Removal of eye lashes in the affected area may promote drainage. Topical ophthalmic antibiotics my be needed. If there are other sites of infection, oral antibiotics may be necessary. In general, styes are caused by poor hygiene whereby the patient goes to the bathroom, changes a diaper, for example, and then touches the eye area thus infecting the eye lid margin. Proper hygiene and washing your hands with soap and water after going to the bathroom, for example, my reduce the chances of future infections. See your eye doctor.
Also see Blepharitis - one of the most commonly seen eye diseases.
2008 OLERF Annual Report (PDF file)