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Ask a Doctor: Dealing with Irritated Eyelids

What’s one of the most common problems that send people to their dermatology offices in search of relief? The answer, surprisingly, is as simple as irritated eyelid skin. And the cause, says NDDA’s Dr. Sonya Jagwani, isn’t what you think.

Read on for the first installment in our new Q&A series from NDDA’s doctors. Each month we’ll feature a different dermatology question, and it’s (sometimes surprising) answer. 

What is one of the most common conditions you see that confuses patients when it comes to what’s causing it?

Many patients come into our office with something called eyelid dermatitis. It causes scaly, irritated skin and red puffy eyes. Most of the time it looks and feels like an allergic reaction, so people think it must be caused by a new product they are using. But then, they stop using their eyeliner, or cosmetic product and the irritation won’t go away, so it can be confusing.

So what is really going on?

Even though it feels and looks like an allergic reaction, in many cases, it’s more of an irritant than an allergen that is causing the inflamed, itchy skin. The eyelid is made of some of the thinnest skin on your body, and it’s the most sensitive to chemical exposure. Many times, a patient touched something with their hands and then transferred it to their eyelid. A common case is getting your nails done and then accidentally transferring acetone, or another chemical that may be on your hands to your eyelid. Even a little exposure could be enough to cause a lot of irritation.

How do you prevent eyelid dermatitis?

The first piece of advice I give everyone is to try to be careful to keep your hands away from your eye area. Just because nothing is irritating the skin on your hands, it doesn’t mean there isn’t an irritant there that could cause a reaction on the much more sensitive eyelid skin.

How do you treat eyelid dermatitis?

Antihistamines like Zyrtec or Claritin can help to get the irritation under control, reduce the puffiness and drain fluid. And, depending on the case, the use of a topical steroid in an ointment base can be prescribed to turn that inflammation off.

The key is to be careful to use a very mild substance like an ointment. You should never put any kind of cream on irritated eyelid skin. Creams have alcohol and other ingredients in them that will burn delicate skin. Instead, go for something like Aquaphor or Vaseline.

Dr. Sonya Jagwani

Dr. Sonya Jagwani is a board certified dermatologist who joined North Dallas Dermatology Associates in 2012. Dr. Jagwani graduated summa cum laude from Saint Louis University in 2004. . . . Read more »

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North Dallas Dermatology Associates8144 Walnut Hill Lane Suite 1300
Dallas Texas 75231
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