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Puffy Eyelid

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 is puffy eyelids and migraine?

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

Autonomic symptoms are related to these processes, like dizziness, swelling of tissues, blurry vision, heart rate disturbances, and 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 droopy eyelid, watery eyes, facial flushing, red or bloodshot eyes, nasal congestion, and ear fullness.1

Why do puffy eyelids occur during a migraine attack?

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

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

How are puffy eyelids treated?

Migraine treatment should help relieve the symptoms associated with 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.

Poll

Tracking your migraine symptoms

Keeping a record of your migraine symptoms may help you figure out patterns and triggers to 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

Community experiences of puffy eyelids

Migraine.com advocates 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. To learn more about community experiences with cluster headache, read more here.

Written by: Jessica Johns Pool | Last reviewed: December 2019
  1. Flushing, Drooping, Tearing, and Stuffiness…Autonomic Symptoms in Headache. American Migraine Foundation. Available at https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/flushing-drooping-tearing-and-stuffiness-autonomic-symptoms-in-headache/ Accessed 11/19/20.