Puffy Eyelid

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: November 2020

Puffy eyelids are a symptom seen in some people living with migraine disease. This is also called eyelid edema (sometimes spelled as oedema), or eyelid swelling. It is considered a unilateral cranial autonomic symptom, which means the symptoms happen on both sides of the head and cannot be controlled by the person.

How common are puffy eyelids with migraine?

Up to 70 percent of adults living with migraine also experience autonomic symptoms. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) regulates certain body processes that are involuntary, such as heartbeat, blood flow, digestion, sensation, and breathing.1

Autonomic symptoms are related to these processes, such as:1

  • Dizziness
  • Swelling of tissues
  • Blurry vision
  • Heart rate disturbances
  • Digestive troubles

Puffy eyelids can look like the swelling of the eyelid that occurs with allergies, which may lead to initial misdiagnoses. Other autonomic symptoms include:1

  • Droopy eyelid
  • Watery eyes
  • Facial flushing
  • Red or bloodshot eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Ear fullness

Why do puffy eyelids occur?

The pain sensors in the covering of the brain are often affected by migraine. These nerves are related to the autonomic system, which then causes autonomic symptoms. Puffy eyelids, like many other migraine symptoms, do not occur in everyone or with each migraine.1

Eyelid puffiness is thought to be more common in cluster headaches. When eyelid puffiness occurs with migraine, the person may be misdiagnosed with migraine instead of cluster headaches. Since puffy eyelids are linked with things like allergies and tiredness, it is a symptom that people may not associate with migraine and therefore not report to their doctor.1

How are they treated?

Migraine treatment should help relieve the symptoms tied to the migraine attack. Several home remedies may also bring relief:

  • If you wear contacts, try taking them out to see if that relieves any irritation that was made worse by the swelling.
  • Rinse your eyes to make sure there are no irritants in your eyes.
  • Place a cool compress over your eyelids for several minutes.

If you do not feel relief, talk with your doctor about other options to help treat eye puffiness and swelling.

Tracking your migraine symptoms

Keeping a record of your migraine symptoms may help you figure out patterns and triggers for your attacks. It may be helpful to record such things as:

  • When and where your pain or symptoms start
  • Whether the pain spreads to your entire head or neck
  • How well and how quickly acute treatment helps reduce the pain or other symptoms
  • How long your pain or symptoms last
  • Whether you experience other symptoms such as vision changes, nausea, or light sensitivity

Personal experiences

Migraine.com Patient Leaders often write about their experiences with strange symptoms of this often invisible disease. Puffy eyelids can be one of the few more physically obvious migraine symptoms as people can experience visible changes in their face and eyes.

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