Puffy Eyes — And How to Fix Them

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Puffy eyes

Having Puffy Eyes? Waking up with puffy, swollen eyes is a major bummer—especially if you need to arrive at work looking bright and alert, or you’re tired of masking the puffiness with makeup. Even worse is when the puff is accompanied by dark circles, redness, underye bags, and/or irritation. It’s not a pretty look, and it can do a number on your self-esteem.

Why does it happen? Many things can contribute to eye puffiness, but the underlying cause has to do with fluid accumulation. For unknown reasons, fluid has collected around your eyes and the surrounding skin tissue. This tissue is among the thinnest in your body, so any swelling there is easy to see and hard to hide.

Some of the causes of this fluid retention are relatively harmless and unrelated to a more serious issue, such as not getting enough sleep or consuming foods with too much sodium. Other times, the puffiness is a sign something that needs to be addressed by a doctor, like an infection, says Randy McLaughlin, OD, a professor of optometry at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.

RELATED: 7 Medications That Can Cause Dry Eyes

To help you uncover what’s behind your puffy eyes, we spoke with a team of doctors, including a dermatologist, ophthalmologist, allergist, and optometrist. Read on for the reasons why fluid accumulation happens and how to combat it—and wake up looking fresh, gorgeous, and like yourself again.

 

Why do you have puffy eyes?

Waking up with puffy, swollen eyes is a major bummer—especially if you need to arrive at work looking bright and alert, or you’re tired of masking the puffiness with makeup. Even worse is when the puff is accompanied by dark circles, redness, underye bags, and/or irritation. It’s not a pretty look, and it can do a number on your self-esteem.

Why does it happen? Many things can contribute to eye puffiness, but the underlying cause has to do with fluid accumulation. For unknown reasons, fluid has collected around your eyes and the surrounding skin tissue. This tissue is among the thinnest in your body, so any swelling there is easy to see and hard to hide.

Some of the causes of this fluid retention are relatively harmless and unrelated to a more serious issue, such as not getting enough sleep or consuming foods with too much sodium. Other times, the puffiness is a sign something that needs to be addressed by a doctor, like an infection, says Randy McLaughlin, OD, a professor of optometry at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.

RELATED: 7 Medications That Can Cause Dry Eyes

To help you uncover what’s behind your puffy eyes, we spoke with a team of doctors, including a dermatologist, ophthalmologist, allergist, and optometrist. Read on for the reasons why fluid accumulation happens and how to combat it—and wake up looking fresh, gorgeous, and like yourself again.

The skin around your eyes is very thin, making them extremely sensitive. When skin here comes into contact with allergens floating in the air such as pollen, animal dander, or dust mites, swelling is the result. Adding to the puffiness are allergens that reach the eyes through your nose.

“Sometimes the sinus cavities behind the eyes become inflamed due to inhalation of the allergens through the nasal passages,” says Lisa Ellman-Grunther, MD, an allergist at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai in New York City, in an email to Health. If allergies are the reason for your puffy eyes, they’ll likely also be itchy and watery—another fun effect of allergens. You might also notice dryness and flakiness on the skin, particularly your eyelids, says Dr. Ellman-Grunther.

To reduce allergy-induced puffiness, try over-the-counter eye drops or a saline eye rinse, which wash the allergens out of your peepers. For irritated skin, lubricated ointments not only act as a barrier between the skin and allergens, but it also can soothe and ease redness. A nasal spray might help relieve sinus pressure and in turn de-puff your eyes.

RELATED: How to Choose a Pet When You Have Allergies

Using these products occasionally is fine, but relying on them for days on end isn’t a good idea. “Using [over-the-counter eye drops and nasal sprays] for too long can make the problem worse and cause dependence,” warns Dr. Ellman-Gunther. “You should always confirm with a doctor what’s safe to use and for how long before using over the counter products for more than a few days.” Talk to your doctor about prescription meds as well.

While it’s hard to totally avoid allergens, reduce your exposure and prevent eye puffiness by staying indoors as much as possible—especially in fall and spring, when trees and plants release more pollen and symptoms can get worse. Keep windows shut, change into another outfit when you come in from outdoors, and consider getting an air filter to cut down on pet dander in your home.

 

You have allergies

The skin around your eyes is very thin, making them extremely sensitive. When skin here comes into contact with allergens floating in the air such as pollen, animal dander, or dust mites, swelling is the result. Adding to the puffiness are allergens that reach the eyes through your nose.

“Sometimes the sinus cavities behind the eyes become inflamed due to inhalation of the allergens through the nasal passages,” says Lisa Ellman-Grunther, MD, an allergist at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai in New York City, in an email to Health. If allergies are the reason for your puffy eyes, they’ll likely also be itchy and watery—another fun effect of allergens. You might also notice dryness and flakiness on the skin, particularly your eyelids, says Dr. Ellman-Grunther.

To reduce allergy-induced puffiness, try over-the-counter eye drops or a saline eye rinse, which wash the allergens out of your peepers. For irritated skin, lubricated ointments not only act as a barrier between the skin and allergens, but it also can soothe and ease redness. A nasal spray might help relieve sinus pressure and in turn de-puff your eyes.

RELATED: How to Choose a Pet When You Have Allergies

Using these products occasionally is fine, but relying on them for days on end isn’t a good idea. “Using [over-the-counter eye drops and nasal sprays] for too long can make the problem worse and cause dependence,” warns Dr. Ellman-Gunther. “You should always confirm with a doctor what’s safe to use and for how long before using over the counter products for more than a few days.” Talk to your doctor about prescription meds as well.

While it’s hard to totally avoid allergens, reduce your exposure and prevent eye puffiness by staying indoors as much as possible—especially in fall and spring, when trees and plants release more pollen and symptoms can get worse. Keep windows shut, change into another outfit when you come in from outdoors, and consider getting an air filter to cut down on pet dander in your home.