What is chemosis?

Chemosis is swelling of the conjunctiva, the mucous membrane that covers the surface of the eye and back of the eyelids.

How is chemosis treated?

Swelling of the conjunctiva has many causes (e.g. trauma, post-surgical, allergy, infection) and the underlying cause should be addressed.  If an infection is present or suspected, anti-infectious agents are prescribed.  Allergy medications are used to improve allergic conjunctivitis (inflammation of the mucous membrane).

Chemosis that occurs after blepharoplasty is often self-limited and will resolve with conservative measures including warm compresses, gentle massage, pressure patching, and surface lubrication (artificial tears).

If chemosis after cosmetic eyelid surgery persists, other steps can be taken.  Topical steroid drops can be helpful.  Conjunctival quilting sutures with or without a fornix stent can help to compress the area.  Chemosis that is preventing eyelid closure can be alleviated with temporary suture tarsorrhaphy (stitches that hold the eyelids closed).  Conjunctival fenestration (holes made in the mucous membrane with cautery) may help to relieve build-up of fluid and to generate a scar that closes the space filled with fluid.

Risks of chemosis

If left untreated, significant chemosis can lead to irritation of the surface of the eye and dry-eye symptoms which can potentially affect vision.