Eye Swelling After Exercise

If your eyes swell after exercise, you need to see a physician, especially if you have other symptoms such as trouble breathing or hives. You may be suffering from a literal allergy to exercise, a condition that can proceed rapidly to a serious allergic reaction, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. It's also possible that you suffer from an eye condition called optic neuritis, which may require treatment.

Close-up of a brown eye.
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Exercise Allergy Basics

Exercise allergy, also known as exercise-induced anaphylaxis, causes allergic symptoms such as hives, eye and facial swelling and airway closure in susceptible individuals, according to the December 2008 edition of "The Physician and Sports Medicine." When someone suffers from exercise allergy, they'll often first experience very itchy legs, either during or immediately following exercise. From there, the condition often spreads through the body to cause the other symptoms, including eye swelling.

Condition Trigger

Food can trigger exercise allergy, especially common allergens such as wheat and shellfish, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. If you have a mild allergy to a particular food, you might suffer from eye swelling and the other symptoms of exercise allergy if you consume the food within a couple of hours before exercising. If that happens to you, eliminate reactions simply by avoiding that food prior to working out.

Optic Neuritis

Optic neuritis, which involves inflammation or swelling of your optic nerve, also can cause eye swelling following exercise, according to the website Natural Eye Care. If this occurs, you'll often experience blurred or low vision in your eyes along with the swelling, and pain that you feel when you move your eyes. Although many different conditions can cause optic neuritis, multiple sclerosis represents the most common trigger.


Regardless of whether you think you have exercise allergy or optic neuritis, you should see your physician to get a diagnosis and any necessary treatment. Although exercise allergy has caused only one reported fatality in the last 30 years, according to "The Physician and Sports Medicine," it's still a potentially serious condition. In addition, optic neuritis might resolve by itself, but if it's a precursor to a serious condition such as multiple sclerosis, you'll want to enter treatment promptly.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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