Allergy of the eyelids is a common problem. The two most common types of eyelid allergies are contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis. Contact dermatitis is allergic inflammation of the eyelid from direct contact with certain allergens. Women in particular may suffer from this problem due to allergic reactions to preservatives in eye products and makeup. Common examples include eye creams, eyeliner or eye pencils, mascara, and nail polish (caused by rubbing the eye with the fingers). Other irritants include over-the-counter and prescription medications (neomycin or Bacitracin), as well as contact lens solutions.
Symptoms appear 24 to 48 hours after exposure to the allergen. The eyelids may become swollen and red. They may also feel itchy and possibly form blisters. The white of the eye may also become red and watery. If the eyelids continually come into contact with the offending agents, the lids may become chronically inflamed and thickened.
Atopic dermatitis is similar but is a more systemic allergy to allergens such as pollens, pet dander, mold spores and dust mites. Food allergies may also cause atopic dermatitis. Unlike contact dermatitis, which primarily affects the upper eyelids, atopic dermatitis typically involves both the upper and lower eyelids. In many cases other body parts may also be affected.
The best treatment for eyelid allergies is avoidance of the sensitizing agent. Changing to hypoallergenic lens solutions, cosmetics, or topical eye products is usually necessary. Application of a mild topical corticosteroid cream for short periods will likely be beneficial. It is also important to treat any secondary bacterial infection that may develop.