Puffy Eyes Overview
Puffy eyes (eye bags) refer to swelling under the eyes. They can create the look of dark circles or shadows under the lower eyelids. Swelling, redness, and irritation are also common with puffy eyes.1
Dark circles are usually only a cosmetic complaint, which is not cause for medical concern. However, sometimes puffy eyes occur due to an allergic reaction or underlying health issue.1
There are several ways to treat puffy eyes, depending on their cause. Treatments range from at-home care to surgical procedures.
Here’s everything you need to know about what causes puffy eyes, how to treat them, and how to prevent them:
What Causes Puffy Eyes?
Puffy eyes develop for a variety of reasons. These include:
- You’re tired. Sleep deprivation can cause the eyes to appear droopy.2
- You consume too much salt. Too much sodium can cause swelling in the body, including under the eyes.2
- You’re dehydrated. Staying hydrated is important for your overall health. Dehydration can cause inflammation around your eyes.
- Your eye bags are genetic. You may be genetically predisposed to puffy eyes.5
- You’re aging. As you get older, your skin, including around your eyes, loses its firmness. This may result in puffy, droopy eyes.5
- You’ve been crying. Crying can make your eyes look red and cause your eyelids to swell. This is because your tears build up in your body’s drainage system. Your body may also absorb and retain tears in the tissue under your eyes.
- You’re allergic to something. An allergic reaction can cause inflammation and irritation in and around the eyes.2
- You have an underlying health condition. Some medical conditions trigger eye irritation. For example, thyroid issues or eye conditions like pink eye can make eyes look puffy.5
8 Ways to Get Rid of Puffy Eyes
There are several ways to get rid of puffy eyes. The treatment(s) needed depends on what caused them in the first place.
Here are eight ways to treat puffy eyes and dark circles:
1. Catch up on sleep
Chronic sleep loss can result in swelling and/or dark circles around the eyes. You should aim to sleep at least 7 to 9 hours a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).6
2. Change your diet
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), most adults should not consume more than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day. If you have high blood pressure, you should consume much less than that.9
While you’re eating less-salty foods, also consider drinking less alcohol, which is a dehydrant.
3. Try new skincare products
You should also look for products, such as a retinol cream, that have collagen as an ingredient. Collagen is a vital protein for healthy skin.4
4. Use a cold compress
Cold compresses may help you get rid of eye puffiness.2 You can try cooling masks.
Other at-home products can also reduce inflammation around your eyes:
- Ice packs
- Cold water
- Chilled tea bags
- Frozen bags of vegetables
- Refrigerated utensils
5. Practice self-care
If your under eye bags are a result of crying, try destressing. Meditating, journaling, exercising, and other endorphin-boosting activities help reduce stress.
Note: If you find yourself frequently crying due to stress, consider speaking to a mental health professional. Therapy helps address anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.
6. Stay hydrated
Another way to reduce puffy eyes is to make sure that you’re drinking enough water each day. Staying hydrated reduces inflammation and keeps your body functioning properly.
Most people need to drink at least 8 cups of water a day to stay fully hydrated.
7. Take allergy medication
If you’re experiencing seasonal allergies or are having an allergic reaction, you may need allergy medication. Medication can relieve allergy symptoms, like swelling under the eyes.
8. Talk to a doctor
If at-home remedies do not help the puffy appearance of your eyes, consult your doctor. You may have an underlying health condition they can identify and treat.
For example, if you have pink eye, your doctor can prescribe medicated eye drops. If you have a thyroid condition that’s causing swelling around your eyes, treating it can help reduce the puffiness.
Other Symptoms of Puffy Eyes
You may experience other symptoms with swollen eyelids, including:
- Itchy eyes
- Red eyes
- Swelling in other areas of the body
When Should You See a Medical Professional?
You should see a medical professional if you cannot pinpoint the reason behind your puffy eyes or if your symptoms do not subside after treatment.
Puffy eyes can cause vision problems, which can lead to headaches and other health issues. Puffy eyes that do not go away may be a sign of a more serious condition.
Cases are considered serious when:
- Your symptoms do not improve with treatment
- Your symptoms get worse over time
- You develop other symptoms
If you are concerned your puffy eyes are a sign of a serious issue, talk to your doctor. They can provide a professional diagnosis and medication as needed.
Additional Professional Interventions
If you choose to seek professional help, you have other options in addition to consulting your primary physician.
Estheticians, for example, can apply fillers around your eyes to reduce the look of puffy skin under the eyes.5
More than a million Americans get injections of hyaluronic acid each year. These fillers can last from about 6 to 18 months.8
In more severe cases, some people may be eligible for surgery to treat puffy eyes. This lower eyelid surgery is called blepharoplasty.1, 3 It is a quick, outpatient procedure.
During this surgery, your surgeon will remove any excess fat under your eyes. They may also tighten your muscles and skin around the area.3
Sometimes puffy eyes are not preventable, especially if they are genetic.5
However, these tips might help prevent puffy eyes:2
- Ensure you’re getting enough, adequate sleep
- Maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet
- Stay hydrated
- Do your best to minimize stress
- Treat allergies
Generally, puffy eyes are nothing serious. Sometimes all you need is a little more sleep or water.
By following the tips above, you can help keep the skin under your eyes from becoming inflamed. If you develop puffy eyes and choose to treat them at home, make sure to monitor their healing.
If you notice the swelling is not improving, your doctor can recommend professional treatments and home remedies.
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