Chemosis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

It occurs when the inner lining of the eyelids swells. This transparent lining, called conjunctiva, also covers the surface of the eye.

The chemosis of the conjunctiva is a type of ocular inflammation.

The swelling of the conjunctiva can cause eye irritation and is presented as an exterior surface that seems aqueous or gelatinous.

Chemosis is a non-specific symptom that can have several different causes. It is related to allergies. Sometimes, a viral or bacterial infection can cause it. The chemosis is not contagious; You can not catch it from someone else.


There are a variety of causes of chemosis, the most frequent being allergies, viral and bacterial infections, and the constant rubbing of the eyes themselves. Any factor that can cause eye irritation can lead to the development of chemosis.

The following are some of the most common causes of chemosis:

  • Allergies: Seasonal changes, pet dander, pollen and virtually anything else that you may be allergic to has a high chance of making your eyes itch constantly.
  • Infections:  caused by bacteria or viruses that lead to a condition called conjunctivitis . While these types of infection can be contagious, which causes the eyes to become red, itchy and watery, the specific symptom of chemosis can not be transmitted alone.
  • Eye surgeries: performing any type of surgery on the eye or eyelids often leads to the development of chemosis. Fortunately, these symptoms usually only last a couple of days with proper treatment with eye drops, cold compresses or temporary eye patches.
  • Hyperthyroidism : a disorder of the thyroid gland that leads to overproduction of thyroid hormone. This condition can cause several types of eye problems, such as swelling of the eyes and eyelid retraction.
  • Excessive rubbing: constantly touching, rubbing or scratching the eyes is a common cause of chemosis. It is never recommended to scrub the eyes as this will induce more irritation and possibly even cause damage to the eyes.

Less common causes of chemosis include:


  • Crying eyes.
  • Excessive tear.
  • Itchy eyes
  • Double or blurred vision.

You may not be able to close your eyes completely during a chemosis attack due to swelling. Some people do not have any symptoms of chemosis other than inflammation.


The diagnosis of chemosis will consist of a series of questions about intensity, irritation, pain, watering and exudation of fluid from the eyes, as well as any other presenting symptom. It is also important to disclose any allergies or previous medical conditions that you may have.

A thorough examination of the eyes will also be carried out, which will involve the use of specialized ophthalmological equipment to see the extent of ocular pathology. If necessary, your doctor may also suggest obtaining imaging studies of the eye or biopsy in cases where a tumor is suspected.


Treatment methodologies generally depend on the underlying cause of your particular case of chemosis. The following are examples of several treatments:

  • Drops for lubricating eyes: help to combat dryness and irritation of the eyes and are commonly prescribed in case of mild swelling.
  • Cold compress: can provide immediate relief to reduce the intensity of chemosis, but only in mild cases.
  • Patches: commonly done for patients who have difficulty closing the eye. The application of patches helps to prevent the eye from becoming excessively irritated and drying out.
  • Corticosteroids: commonly administered in the form of eye drops to help reduce the inflammatory response of the eye and, subsequently, reduce eye swelling.
  • Anti-inflammatory drug: can be a topical or oral medication to help reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Antihistamines : A common treatment for allergic reactions to suppress the release of histamine, a substance produced by the body when exposed toallergens .
  • Adrenaline or epinephrine: standard emergency treatment for life-threatening anaphylactic reactions. An absolute necessity in cases where the patient has difficulty breathing or swallowing.
  • Antibiotics: can be prescribed for bacterial infections that result in chemosis or postsurgical to reduce the risk of secondary infection. This may come in the form of medicated eye drops or ointments. Unfortunately, antibiotics are not effective against viruses.
  • Conjunctivoplasty: a minor surgery that involves making a small incision in the conjunctiva and removing excess membrane. This may be necessary in cases of prolonged swelling.


In some cases, such as after eye surgery, chemosis may not be prevented. However, if chemosis is caused by allergies, taking measures to avoid them and controlling the symptoms may reduce the risk of recurrent outbreaks of chemosis.

It is recommended to maintain a high level of personal hygiene to limit the sharing of personal items that may come into contact with the eyes, such as towels or cosmetic products.

Practice a good hand washing to prevent the spread of bacteria. Also, avoid touching yourself excessively or rubbing your eyes, especially with dirty hands.