Eyelid problems

Eyelid problems can occur at any age and may be related to infection, inflammation or problems with muscles around your eyes.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021

What conditions are related to eyelid problems?

Conditions that can lead to eyelid problems include:

  • Blepharitis (dry eye syndrome) - a common inflammation of the rim of the eyelids that can cause itchy, crusty eyelids
  • Chalazion - a small, firm fluid-filled cyst (lump) that may feel tender or heavy which can form when tiny glands on your eyelid become blocked and inflamed
  • Drooping upper eyelids (ptosis) - your upper eyelids may droop or look hooded if the muscles that lift them become weaker, and they can also feel sore and gritty
  • Stye - a painful, pus-filled lump can form on your eyelid when the base (follicle) of an eyelash is infected

How to tell if you have eyelid conditions

Eyelid problems can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • Difficulty closing or opening your eye
  • Dry or watery eyes
  • Gritty eyes
  • Flaking or crusty eyelids
  • Itchy eyelids
  • Lumps on the eyelids
  • Painful eyelids
  • Swollen eyelids

Sometimes, swollen, painful eyelids can be a symptom of a severe allergic reaction or a serious infection such as cellulitis.

Seek urgent medical help if you also feel unwell.

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

Book an appointment

Diagnosis and tests for eyelid conditions

Your GP will usually be able to diagnose your eyelid problem by assessing your symptoms. If they think you have a serious eyelid problem, they may refer you to an ophthalmologist (specialist in eye conditions). They may carry out a full examination to check your vision and eye health.

Causes of eyelid conditions

Eyelid problems such as chalazions and styes are caused by common infections or inflammation and can occur at any age.

Other things that increase your risk of developing eyelid problems are:

  • Age – drooping eyelids are most common in older people
  • Skin conditions – people who have skin conditions such as acne, rosacea or seborrhoeic dermatitis are more likely to get blepharitis
  • Contact lenses – inserting and removing contact lens over many years can increase the risk of drooping eyelids

Common treatments for eyelid conditions

Often symptoms like these clear up by themselves but sometimes you may need antibiotics or surgery.

If you have blepharitis, a chalazion or a stye, your doctor may show you a twice-daily routine to help it clear up and prevent it returning. This may include:

  • A warm compress
  • Gentle massage
  • Careful cleaning

Severe cases may also need antibiotic ointment or tablets.

Some people with drooping eyelids (ptosis or ectropion) may benefit from surgery to improve their eye health and appearance. Your doctor can advise on whether this would be right for you.