The area around the eyes is filled with soft tissue that protects and supports the eyeball within the socket of the skull. Sometimes the area under the eye becomes enlarged and appears like bags under the eyes. This can be a symptoms of some underlying disease and needs to be treated medically. However, it is often more of a cosmetic concern and various procedures are undertaken to resolve it and improve the overall appearance of the area around the eye.
What are puffy eyes?
Puffy eyes refers to enlargement and drooping around the eyes, particularly below the eye. It is usually due to swelling that can arise for a host of reasons but over time the skin underneath the eye may begin to sag thereby compounding the puffy appearance. The term puffy eyes can also refer to swelling of the eyelids, including the upper eyelid which may occur for the same reason as puffiness below the eye.
Depending on the cause and duration of eye puffiness, there may also be dark eyelids which can extend to the area under the eye. Sometimes the darkness occurs on its own without puffiness and for entirely different reasons. The firmness of the skin under the eyes depends on a combination of factors, including skin elasticity, underlying connective tissue and fat content which can lead to puffiness if altered.
Causes of Puffy Eyes
The causes of puffy eyes can be various different conditions, some of which are linked to disorders and diseases. Common conditions like styes causes momentary puffiness. However, in many cases puffiness is not related to any serious medical problem. Puffiness also becomes more likely with advancing age, as the changes in skin elasticity and firmness changes. Inherited facial features can also make the eyes look more puffy in some people.
There are a host of different lifestyle factors that can contribute to puffy eyes. This includes lack of sleep, dehydration, excessive salt intake and overuse of the eyes leading to eyestrain. Puffiness of the eyes may also be seen with excessive alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking in the long term. Any reason for prolonged tearing including crying can also lead to puffy eyes.
An injury is among the more common causes of puffy eyes. A range of different types of injuries may arise from a blow to the face and specifically the eye area, injury of the eyeball by contact lenses, to chemicals like pool chlorine and strong detergents, and even excessive rubbing of the eye can cause injury. This leads to inflammation and swelling of the affected tissue. Sometimes the bone around the eye can also be fractured which causes severe swelling.
The eyes are commonly affected in allergic reactions, even when the trigger substances (allergens) do not make direct contact with the eye and surrounding tissue. Allergic rhinitis mainly affects the nose, leading to a runny nose, sneezing and nasal congestion. Often the eyes are also involved (allergic conjunctivitis) and there is usually puffiness around the eyes. Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that may cause widespread swelling in the body.
A number of infections can affect the eye and extend to the tissue around the eye. Conjunctivitis is a well known infectious condition of the outer layer of the eye. It is commonly referred to as a “pink eye” and most cases are due to viruses. It may also involve the eyelids (blepharitis). Orbital cellulitis is an infection, usually bacterial, that affects the tissue around the eye. It can be a very serious infection that needs immediate medical attention.
Various skin diseases may involve the skin around the eye. Inflammatory skin conditions are more likely to cause swelling of the area and this may appear as puffy eyes. Contact dermatitis is one of the acute conditions that can cause swelling when a substance either irritates the skin or triggers an allergic condition. This can vary from soap and water, to body lotion and cosmetics. Other skin diseases may be due to an injury like sunburn, allergy, autoimmune diseases and infections.
Remedies for Puffy Eyes
When puffy eyes is due to specific diseases, then the underlying disease has to be treated and the symptom of eye puffiness should resolve. This may involve medication, non-invasive procedures and sometimes surgery. Cosmetic surgery may be considered when there are bags under the eyes and droopy eyelids that are persistent and not due to any underlying disease.
A widespread method for self-treating the puffiness involves using hemorrhoid cream. While this may be effective, it should be used in moderation and not applied to broken skin. It should only be considered as a short term measure and professional medical advice should first be sought. However, in many instances acute puffiness under the eyes can be relieved with simply lifestyle remedies. This includes:
- Getting enough sleep every night. Most adults need 6 to 8 hours of sleep to function optimally and if sleeping is a problem then medication and sleep therapy techniques should be considered.
- Applying cool compresses over the eyes can also help to relieve swelling. It should only be done if there is no break in the skin. The compress should not be cold and sometimes slightly chilled cucumbers will suffice.
- Avoid makeup to mask the puffiness as this can be the underlying cause of puffy eyes. These cosmetics can irritate the skin or even cause mild allergic reactions that leads to puffiness.
- Shield the eyes from the sun as it can cause eyestrain which may contribute to puffiness. Long term sun exposure can also reduce the skin elasticity and cause premature wrinkling of the skin.
- Reduce the intake of alcohol and stop smoking cigarettes. Over the long term this affects skin elasticity and may exacerbate some of the factors that contribute to puffiness.
- Sleep with the head slightly elevated as this may help with fluid drainage through the action of gravity. This is only effective when there is fluid accumulation causing the eye puffiness.
- Good eye care involves removing all makeup in the area daily if it is being used, washing the face gently and moisturizing the skin with suitable hypoallergenic creams.