Ow, my eyes!
June 15, 2006 10:47 AM   Subscribe

This Monday morning, when I woke up and went to look in the mirror, I was amazed to see the skin around my eyes (on my eyelids and under my eyes) was all puffed up to the point where I could only open my eyes halfway.

I was on a business trip to Holland, and was staying in a hotel. I asked at the front desk for them to change the pillows and blankets in my room to another type, and left. By that evening the swelling had gone down but the skin was burning and quite red. The next day, the burning was continuing so that evening (Tuesday) I had a doctor called to the hotel.

He said "how strange!", and that it was an allergic reaction, but he had no idea to what. He wrote me a prescription for an antihistimine, levocetirizine, and also told me to put some cream on it of the type that's usually used for bee-stings.

Now it's Thursday evening and the skin around my eyes is still red and still stings. It seems to sometimes get a bit better and sometimes a bit worse. Whenever I put the cream on the stinging and burning gets really bad, and then seems to go away a bit for a few hours.

It feels like what I have is some sort of chemical burn, but there are no blisters, just redness. So, how long should I expect this to last? Any ideas on what it could be caused by? I started using this stupid expensive eye cream over a week before it happened, and had used it on Sunday night. Is it probably the culprit? And do I need to see another doctor now that I'm home in France, or should I just wait it out?
posted by hazyjane to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IANAD, and you should see one.

However, a couple of winters ago, I had a sudden crazy response to eye makeup apparently. The skin around my eyes became red and stingy, much like it had been burned. One swelled enormously. It looked terrible. Doctor ordered me to go two weeks without washing my face, wearing makeup or contacts. When the two weeks was up, my eye was better (and my skin looked fabulous!). As I introduced each suspect back in, it turned out to be the eye makeup that was the culprit. It need not be anything new, you can just suddenly become allergic to things.

If you're allergic to something you're putting near your eyes, you need to do without it for a couple of weeks before you may see improvement. I was told by my dr. that stopping it one day apparently will not show results the next.

Again, seeing a dr. here would be a good idea, and I'd hint for a steroid cream. It really helped me.
posted by FortyT-wo at 11:18 AM on June 15, 2006

IA, also, NAD.

This reminds me of the problems I had in college with recurring Stys. At one point, I was bedridden, as I really didn't know how to get around so much with the not-being-able-to-see thing.

Swelling similar to a bee-sting, typically with one eye, but sometimes with both. When the swelling finally went down, the sking around my eye was either red and stingy, or my eye was working overtime with the excretions.

In general, I was not the most attractive of people during this period. Occasionally, when this happened, I'd trot out the "I am not an animal!" line, but eventually, people caught wise, and I was shunned.
posted by thanotopsis at 11:32 AM on June 15, 2006

I am not a doctor or herb or cosmetics expert but, when I clicked on the link and read the "concentrated with rosemary extracts" bit, I remembered reading rosemary essential oil can cause skin irritation. Maybe that goes for the essential oil only, and it was something else in the cream that triggered the reaction. Or maybe not the cream at all.

I had a similar thing once while on holiday camping in not the perfect hygienic conditions so who knows what kind of crap got in my eyelids. It burnt and eyes were very puffed, same as what you're saying.

All I remember is I got an eye soothing cream from the chemist and that was enough, in a few days it got better.

Since it's been four days already and you haven't seen improvements, then yes, I'd check with the doctor.
posted by funambulist at 11:33 AM on June 15, 2006

Since the first doctor didn't really seem sure what irritated or infected the tissues, and the current treatment isn't giving you relief, and this is after all your eye -- yeah, I'd want to see another doctor at this point. The hard part is knowing whether a dermatologist, ophthalmologist, or allergist is most appropriate. If you've got good insurance, a visit to your GP first should get the correct referral.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:49 AM on June 15, 2006

I've had this reaction due to contact allergies. It generally takes about two weeks for the rask to die down. The skin on your face is very sensitive, around your eyes it's even more sensitive.

I wind up stupidly allowing myself to be exposed to allergens about once every two years for the past decade -- usually by not reading cosmetics bottles -- and despite visits to numerous doctors I have not yet found a cure or a method to make the rash go away faster.

It's pretty awful, especially when it's on your face. If your problem is the same as mine, expect swelling and itchiness for the first week, followed by extremely skin -- it might even crack and flake off. Then more discomfort that gradually fades away after a couple of weeks have passed.

Here's what's helped reduce the swelling and make the pain more bearable:
* Steroid shots.
* Vaseline on the skin. Vaseline also makes a vitamine E healing lotion that helps.
* Cold wet washcloth held in place on the burning areas.

If you choose to use moisturizer, only use unscented, basic things until you're better.

Resist any urge to cover up the discoloration and swelling with makeup. It will slow the healing process, and could hurt too.

I'd guess it is your new eye cream that caused the problem. It can take several exposures to an allergen before your body begins to react.

Do you know what the ingredients are? Some of my own allergies are linked to very common oils used in cosmetics -- including coconut oil and lanolin.

At this point, you should probably go to an allergist and try to track down what your actual allergy is so you can aviod purchasing other cosmetics that contain the offending incredient.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:47 PM on June 15, 2006

posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:47 PM on June 15, 2006

extremely skin=extremely dry skin.

I need to make better use of the preview button
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:48 PM on June 15, 2006

I think it would be a good idea to change hotels.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:13 PM on June 15, 2006

Ten years or so ago i woke up and my left eye was swollen shut. A real wtf moment. Eye doctor seemed concerned and even spoke openly about ocular tumors. Went for cat scans. My dad reffered me to an ear nose and throat doctor who asked if I had allergies. No, I said, didn't think so. He insisted I be tested, and after getting skin pricked with 50 different allergens, turns out I was allergic to EVERYTHING. 5 years of shots later I was better. So, take it from me, you can be much more allergic to things than you ever thought possible. You can also develope allergies at any point in your life. Moving into a new environment can trigger allergies to different things.

I would be willing to bet it was the rosemary oil, or something in the sheets, pillows. You might want to get tested. Allergy shots can really work wonders, though they take a long time.
posted by vronsky at 2:07 PM on June 15, 2006

By the way, it's not uncommon for allergies to take 7-10 days to develop. I discovered the hard way that I was allergic to two prescription drugs when I broke out in a full-body rash about 10 days after beginning to take them.

I agree with everyone else that it was probably that eye cream which is the culprit.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:27 PM on June 15, 2006

A similar thing happened to me once - I woke up one morning and my eyelid was swollen completely open. My (very excellent) doctor said it could either be allergies or some sort of bacterial infection. She recommended anti-histamines (which you are taking), antibacterial cream, and WARM COMPRESSES < - for me, this was the key. br>
A warm compress (just get tap water as hot as possible on a washcloth and hold it to your eye - NOT boiling water) generally reduced the swelling and helped with the pain.
posted by muddgirl at 4:35 PM on June 15, 2006

One more anecdote for you. This kind of eye thing has been constant for me for about seven years. (Plus getting bumps on the insides of my lids, so it always felt like I had stuff in my eyes.) What helped in my case, after lots of experimenting, was the following:

1) Absolutely nothing, make-up, moisturizer or soap, on the face. Only rinse with water. Saves a lot of money!

2) Prescription for Elidel, a non-steroidal cream. Steroids (such as hydrocortisone) are not good to use on your face.

3) Use a laundry detergent that has no additives, coloring, etc. Such as Ecover, Seventh Generation, etc. (Trader Joe's has a great one that's cheap.)

If I follow this, I can keep it under control. For relief, I fill a small ziploc with water and cool it in the fridge for a while, then lay it over my eyes for a few minutes. It feels great. Be sure not to use ice, or water that's too cold -- not good for the eyeballs.

YMMV. Best wishes. It's a wholly distracting, miserable problem.
posted by shifafa at 5:33 PM on June 15, 2006

Thanks a lot for all the advice and encouragement. I've gone on a makeup hiatus, and the eye-cream has been banished. I'll also stay in a different hotel next time I go to Holland, just in case. It seems from some comments that the healing process can take about 2 weeks, so since it's only been 5 days I've decided not to worry yet.

One annoying thing is, I bought a whole skin care regimen from that yon-ka company, and now looking at the labels almost all the products contain rosemary. I never should have strayed from my trusty drug-store brands!
posted by hazyjane at 11:21 PM on June 15, 2006

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