What is eyelid dermatitis?
Eyelid dermatitis (also called eyelid eczema, periocular dermatitis or periorbital dermatitis) is a type of contact dermatitis. As that name implies, it’s a skin condition caused by your eyelids coming into contact with something — a substance or physical trigger that you’re allergic to or irritated by. Your eyelids react by turning red and scaly, and they may swell and thicken. Stinging, burning and itching are common symptoms of eyelid contact dermatitis.
What are the types of eyelid dermatitis?
Eyelid dermatitis is divided into two types: irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. These names refer to what causes the swelling, scaling and itching — either an allergic reaction or some sort of irritating substance. Irritant contact dermatitis makes up about 80% of contact dermatitis cases.
How long does eyelid dermatitis last?
With treatment, the symptoms of irritant contact dermatitis may start to feel better after one to two days. If you have allergic contact dermatitis, it might take two to three days of treatment to see improvement.
How common is eyelid dermatitis?
Contact dermatitis is a very common skin condition. About 15% to 20% of people will experience it at some point during their lives, but it’s unclear what percentage of those cases are dermatitis of the eyelid.
How does eyelid dermatitis start?
Eyelid dermatitis can start slowly or hit you suddenly. It usually starts with red skin and itchiness.
Who is at risk for eyelid dermatitis?
Anyone can get eyelid dermatitis, but you’re more vulnerable and at a higher risk if you have any of the following:
- Sensitive skin.
- A history of hay fever.
- A history of atopic eczema.
- Any skin inflammation.
- A weak skin barrier.
Is eyelid dermatitis hereditary (inherited from your parents)?
No, eyelid dermatitis isn’t hereditary. But you may be predisposed to asthma or a weaker skin barrier, which can put you at a higher risk for dermatitis.
Is eyelid dermatitis contagious?
No, dermatitis is not contagious. It can’t be spread from person to person.
Symptoms and Causes
What causes eyelid dermatitis?
Eyelid dermatitis is divided into two types: irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. Irritant contact dermatitis of the eyelid can be caused by either a physical trigger or an external irritant.
- Extreme heat.
- Extreme cold.
- Extreme humidity.
- Rubbing or scratching.
- Excessively washing your hands with hot water and soap.
- Cosmetics/makeup (mascara, eyeliner, eye shadow and/or sunscreen).
- Soaps, detergents, bleach.
- Chemicals (chlorine, etc.)
- Hydrophobic substances (drying agents that repel water).
- Some metals.
- Scratchy wool.
- Plants like peppers and poinsettias.
Allergic contact dermatitis is your immune system reacting to an allergen. You may have no problems using makeup, for example, for a long time and then, suddenly, it causes eyelid dermatitis — usually a day or two after you apply the product. Allergic contact dermatitis is often caused by cosmetics, but there are other substances that can trigger it as well, including:
- Moisturizers, cleansers, aftershave or eye cream.
- Topical antibiotics.
- False eyelashes or false nails.
- Jewelry made of nickel or gold.
- Eye drops or contact lens solution.
- Fragrances and essential oils.
- Glasses frames.
- Metals like the nickel in tweezers or eyelash curlers.
- Latex in things like goggles, condoms, catheters and balloons.
- Hair dye.
- Dust mites.
- Poison ivy/oak/sumac.
What does eyelid dermatitis look and feel like?
Whether your eyelid dermatitis is caused by contact with an irritant or contact with an allergen, the symptoms on your eyelids are the same. Those symptoms include:
Is eyelid dermatitis painful?
Eyelid dermatitis is painful to some people. It can also cause stinging and itching.
Do certain foods or drinks affect eyelid dermatitis?
No. Experts have observed that people sometimes assume something they ate or drank caused their contact dermatitis, or made it worse, but that usually does not happen.
Is eyelid dermatitis a sign of an eye problem?
Since your eyelids are separate from your eyes, eyelid dermatitis doesn’t hurt the eye itself. But if you itch your eyelid, your eye may get red and sore.
Is eyelid dermatitis a sign of skin cancer?
Eyelid dermatitis is a temporary, treatable skin condition that results from exposure to an allergen or irritant. It’s not a sign of skin cancer.
Diagnosis and Tests
How is eyelid dermatitis diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider may examine you for telltale symptoms like red eyelids, scaly skin and swollen eyelids. If you report that your eyelids are itchy, stinging and/or burning, that will help narrow down the diagnosis.
Your provider may order a patch test if they think you may have an allergy.
Which healthcare providers diagnose eyelid dermatitis?
Your primary healthcare provider may be able to diagnose your dermatitis and prescribe treatment. You may also be referred to a dermatologist (who treats skin) or an allergist (who treats allergies).
Management and Treatment
How is eyelid dermatitis treated?
Your healthcare provider may treat your eyelid dermatitis with:
- Corticosteroids (like hydrocortisone) applied to your skin.
- Oral (taken by mouth) corticosteroids.
- Calcineurin inhibitors.
You should not wear eye makeup while you have eyelid dermatitis.
Are there any at-home treatments for eyelid dermatitis?
See your healthcare provider for your eyelid dermatitis instead of trying any at-home treatments.
Can eyelid dermatitis be prevented?
You can prevent eyelid dermatitis if you know what caused it and avoid that trigger. Additionally, try the following:
- Use products made for sensitive skin.
- Protect your eyelids by wearing protective glasses if you’re going to be around extreme cold, high wind and/or a lot of dust.
- Avoid scratching or rubbing your eyelids.
- Touch your eyelids with clean hands only.
Can my diet help prevent eyelid dermatitis?
No, there are no foods or drinks you can ingest that can prevent eyelid dermatitis.
What medications might reduce my risk of eyelid dermatitis?
There are no known medications that can reduce your risk.
Outlook / Prognosis
What’s the outlook for people with eyelid dermatitis?
Eyelid dermatitis is treatable. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to clear up the contact dermatitis. But the condition can come back. It’s a good idea to try to figure out what caused it so that you can avoid the trigger.
When can I get back to my normal activities like work/school?
Dermatitis shouldn’t keep you from going about your normal daily activities. If it’s so painful and annoying that it interferes with your work or keeps you up at night, be sure to tell your healthcare provider.
Can I live a normal life with eyelid dermatitis?
Absolutely. Eyelid dermatitis is annoying but shouldn’t impact your quality of life.
Will eyelid dermatitis affect the rest of my skin?
No. Eyelid dermatitis won’t spread to the rest of your body. However, keep in mind that what caused your eyelid dermatitis could cause dermatitis on other parts of your body.
When should I contact my healthcare provider about eyelid dermatitis?
See your healthcare provider as soon as you notice the symptoms of eyelid dermatitis. You’ll want to get treatment right away before the symptoms get too severe.
When should I go to the emergency department?
Go to the emergency department right away if your eyelids swell up so much that you can’t see. Unrelated to dermatitis, you should go to the emergency department if you have:
- Trouble breathing/shortness of breath, or if you stopped breathing for any reason.
- Severe chest pain or pressure.
- Any pain that is so severe that you can’t stand it.
- Injury to your head, neck or spine.
- Loss of consciousness (if you pass out/faint).
- Sudden weakness, especially if you can’t speak or move.
- Dizziness that doesn’t stop.
- Poisoning or an overdose.
- Severe allergic reaction.
- Coughing or throwing up blood.
- Heavy bleeding.
- High fever that doesn’t get better with medicine.
- Severe burn, electric shock or lightning strike.
- Stroke symptoms – slurred speech, numbness, weakness, loss of balance and/or vision problems.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Although eyelid dermatitis won’t stop you from going about your daily activities, it is a nuisance. It can cause itching and sometimes pain, so it’s important to get checked out by a healthcare provider as soon as possible to keep the symptoms from getting severe. Try your best — with the help of the people around you — to figure out what may have caused the dermatitis. If you can figure that out and avoid the trigger, then you can prevent future flares. Around 15% to 20% of people experience contact dermatitis at some point in their lives, so know that you’re not alone.
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