What causes a blister on eyelids? What treatment options are available? Are the blisters a serious health concern? Is the condition contagious?
Here are the causes, pictures and treatment options for eyelid blisters and bumps.
Blisters on eyelids are not just an aesthetic concern. They can as well be a health concern, especially if they are severe, chronic, or persistent or suddenly gets blood or pus-filled. Among the most common causes of eyelid blisters are:
Ocular herpes (Eye Herpes)
Medically known as ocular herpes, eye herpes is a recurrent but rare viral infection that is caused by the herpes simplex virus. The term herpetic eye disease is also often used to describe this condition which ranks among the most common infectious cause of corneal blindness in the United States as the Right Diagnosis website notes.
There are two types of Herpes simplex viruses that can cause ocular herpes, namely, Varicella zoster virus and Herpes simplex type 1.
Varicella zoster virus is the same virus that causes shingles and chicken pox in humans. When it affects the eyes, the term Herpes zoster opthalmicus is often used. Herpes simplex type 1 virus is, on the other hand, the same virus responsible for cold sores on the mouth and lips.
Both Herpes simplex type 1virus and Varicella zoster viruses are found naturally in most adults. Herpes viruses typically thrive around nerve fibers without causing any trouble but in some cases they start to multiply and/or move to other areas of the body where they cause disease breakouts.
Although the exact cause for such outbreaks is unknown, stress-related factors the likes of fever, sunburn, trauma, and surgery have been linked to incidents.
Of the two types of ocular herpes, herpes zoster ophthalmicus is more likely to cause blisters on eyelids in addition to other symptoms such as redness, corneal swelling, and pain around the eye. Both types of herpes are very painful since they directly affect the nerves.
Sunburn may also cause a clear, watery blister on eyelid. The term sunburn is used to refer to skin damage resulting from excessive exposure to sun’s ultraviolet radiation, more specifically UVA and UVB rays. Sunburn typically manifests itself in skin reddening and soreness, and swelling for more severe cases.
Sunburn blisters are usually an indication of second degree sunburn which extends beyond the first layers of the skin, the epidermis, into the dermis layer.
In addition to blistering, you may as well experience other symptoms such as nausea, fever, chills, headache and general weakness. A few days down the line, your skin will then start peeling and get itchy as the body tries to heal itself and remove the affected cells.
Commonly known as acne, Acne vulgaris is another likely factor for a blister on eyelid. Acne is a skin disorder that results when the tiny holes in the skin called pores become clogged with oil, dirt, and bacteria. Acne may occur on any area of the body but it tends to appear more on the face, back, chest, and neck.
Mild acne manifests itself in small whiteheads and blackheads, but more severe acne may cause large, often painful cysts and pustules. Pustules are usually yellowish in color and fluid-filled (blister-like).
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that is notable for scaly, itchy rashes. It is often passed from parent to children and although it can appear at any stage of life, it most commonly appears during childhood and diminishes in early adulthood.
Over 50% of infants with atopic dermatitis grow out of it, but flare-ups later on in life are also possible.
Atopic dermatitis is thought to be due to skin reactions that are similar to an allergy and factors such as skin infections, harsh soaps, allergens such as dust mites and animal dander, weather changes, stress and certain foods such as soy and wheat have been shown to worsen it.
Atopic dermatitis usually manifests in dry, itchy skin which becomes inflamed (swollen) and red when scratched. Tiny blisters that ooze and then crust may also develop. The symptoms come and go and with time, the affected area of skin may get thickened.
Contact dermatitis is a common skin condition that causes itching, redness, inflammation and blistering of the skin after the patient has come into contact with a certain substance.
Although contact dermatitis is not contagious or life-threatening, it can be an aesthetic concern and may as well be very uncomfortable.
Examples of substances that commonly cause contact dermatitis are soaps; fragrances; jewelry; poison oak, poison ivy and poison sumac plants; rubber; dyes, some preservatives; acids, solvents, and fabric softeners.
Symptoms and their severity vary from one person to another depending on the underlying causative factors and nature of exposure but it is common for the skin to swell and develop a rash that is itchy as well as oozing blisters.
Blister on Eyelid Pictures – Upper, Lower, Eyelid Rim, and Inside Eyelid
Eyelid blisters may tend to occur more commonly on the eyelid rim, but they may as well occur inside the eyelid or under the eyelid. Blistering may also occur on lower eyelid, upper eyelid, or both depending on the underlying circumstances.
The pictures below gives a visual picture (pun intended) of these different positioning of the blisters.
This picture shows a patient with little blisters on both upper and lower eyelids due to Herpes Zoster.
The patient in the picture above has developed huge blisters on both eyelids as a result of sunburn
The photo depicts a patient with blistered skin around eyes due to contact dermatitis
Now that we know some of the common causes of clear (watery) blisters on the eyelids and even taken a look at some pictures of the same, let’s discuss the common treatment approaches.
Treatment for Clear Blister on Eyelid
The most appropriate treatment option for a water-filled blister on the eyelid will vary depending on the underlying condition or disease. The following is a breakdown of the appropriate treatment for each of the causative factors discussed in a previous section.
Ocular Herpes Treatment
As with most viral infections antibiotics such as penicillin are usually an effective treatment for ocular herpes. Antiviral medications are instead used.
The type of treatment used will also vary depending on the part of the eye affected. If only the eyelids are affected, a topical antiviral ointment may be prescribed but if the infection is affecting the inside of the eye, topical antiviral drops are usually preferred. Antiviral pills such as Acyclovir may as well be prescribed.
More severe ocular herpes cases, especially those that involve deeper internal structures may also be treated using topical steroids.
Corticosteroid eye drops may also be prescribed for infections that involve the cornea, more so that are associated with inflammation and eye pressure increase (glaucoma). Corticosteroids help to reduce inflammation and eye pressure.
Surgery may be required for cases that result in scarring of the cornea.
Sunburn blisters treatment revolves around treating the symptoms while preventing further skin damage. A cold compress (a washcloth dipped in cool water) or a cool bath is a good starting point. Aloe vera juice is also an effective home remedy for sunburned eyelids.
In addition, you may want to take over the counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, naproxen etc. to relieve pain and swelling.
A word of caution: While it is very tempting to pop that clear blister on your eyelids out, you actually shouldn’t. This only sets stage for potential infection. Should the blister however break on its own, apply over-the-counter antibiotic cream such as Bacitracin and Neosporin to prevent infection.
Atopic Dermatitis Treatment
Atopic dermatitis is chronic and cannot be cured but several measures can be taken to control it. You will for example want to:
- Avoid taking too hot and too-long showers as this can strip the skin of its oils, resulting in dry skin.
- Apply lotion to your body immediately after taking a bath or shower and several times daily to keep the skin adequately hydrated.
- Maintain room temperature at a rather constant level as drastic and frequent changes in temperature can have drying effect on the skin.
- Prefer clothing made from cotton over those made from wool, silk, and polyester (and other man-made fabrics) as cotton to avoid skin irritation.
- Use gentle, mild soaps. Also ensure that clothes are rinsed thoroughly to avoid irritation.
Your health care provider may also prescribe corticosteroid creams and antihistamines to control the symptoms, particularly swelling an itching.
Some pustules will go away without treatment but if that does not apply to your case, your first line of action should be over-the-counter acne creams, soaps, and medications.
These typically feature salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or sulfur as the active ingredient, but they should not be applied in pubic area. Sulfur-based products should also not be used by patients who are sensitive to sulfur.
Your dermatologist may as well prescribe oral antibiotics such as doxycycline, erythromycin, Minocycline, and tetracycline or topical antibiotics such as dapsone if your case of acne is caused by bacterial infection. These may be administered alongside a prescription-strength salicylic-acid based cream or Retinoid such as Tazorac, Differin, or Retin-A.
Your dermatologist will decide what options are best for you. A treatment regime usually incorporates both of these options.
Treatment of Contact Dermatitis
Effective treatment of contact dermatitis blisters hinges upon determining the underlying factor (allergen or irritant) and avoiding it. With no further exposure to the causative factor, most cases of contact dermatitis will clear in 2-4 weeks.
Other treatment approaches to that water-filled blister on eyelid due to contact dermatitis or any other part of the body include:
- Cool compresses: That is, applying small towel that has been dipped in cold water to soothe itching and other symptoms
- Prescription steroid creams
- Anti-itching cream
- Oral medications – Corticosteroids (to curb inflammation) and antihistamines (to soothe itching), and antibiotics (to stop bacterial infection) may be prescribed for more severe cases.
Blood Blister/Red Blister on Eyelids – What it Means
Blisters are tiny fluid-filled pockets that occur on the upper layers of skin as a result of damage to the skin. The clear fluid inside the blisters, called serum, cushions the underlying skin tissues against further damage and facilitate the healing process.
But what about blood blisters on the eyelids, you ask? Well, according to the UK National Health Service, blisters may get filled with blood and turn red, or accumulate pus as a result of inflammation or infection.
Because the epidermis layer of the skin doesn’t have blood vessels, presence of blood in blisters is a clear indication of damage to the dermis layer of the skin as well.
Among the likely causes of red blisters, or blood blisters if you like, on eyelids are:
Skin cancer of the eyelids: Skin cancer ranks top among all types of cancer in terms of prominence. It can affect any area of the skin including the eyelids, with the lower eyelid being at the highest risk due to its position relative to the sun. 7
Trauma: A blood blister on the eyelid could as well be triggered by trauma to the eyelid that damages the small blood vessels in the area but does not break the skin. As a result, a mixture of skin fluid and blood gets trapped beneath the skin. This manifests itself in the form of blister.
Moles: Some people confuse moles or blood blisters on eyelids.
Treatment of Blood Blisters on Eyelids
Any case of blood blisters on the eyelids warrants the attention of your doctor who will determine the best course of action after making the right diagnosis.
This is especially true of blood blisters that appear a after an instance of sunburn, scalds, an allergic reaction, or contact with some chemical.
Keep in mind that ignoring an infected blister could lay ground for other complications and diseases such as secondary impetigo, cellulitis and sepsis as the UK National Health Service website notes.