7 causes of puffy eyes and how to treat them

25 February 2021

Author: Kate Green

puffy eyes

Why do we get puffy eyes?


We’ve all woken up after a bad night’s sleep, looked in the mirror and have been greeted with the sight of two puffy eyes looking back at us. Sometimes it’s a bad night’s sleep coupled with an evening of overindulgence in wine, or perhaps we’re feeling particularly stressed and worried. These are all factors that can lead to puffy eyes, and it’s totally normal to experience these symptoms. The skin around our eyes is thin in comparison to the skin on the rest of our body, so it can become irritated more easily, as well as displaying signs of fluid retention more readily.


The 7 main causes of puffy eyes are:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Crying
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Cold or flu
  • Menstruation


How can you reduce your puffy eyes?


Ways to reduce the appearance of your puffy eyes depends entirely on the cause of them. If you’re unsure exactly what is causing your eyes to look swollen, you can try some of the tips below to see if it eliminates the problem. It’s important to note that puffy eyes usually aren’t a sign of anything serious and can often be solved easily with a bit of TLC.


  1. Lack of sleep

If you regularly experience puffy eyes as a result of a lack of sleep, the answer is simple... sleep more! When your body is tired, your adrenal glands release cortisol, altering the salt balance in your body. This causes you to retain more water than usual, leading to swelling particularly around the eyes. To help treat this, you can use cold compresses on your eyes to reduce the swelling, and then try to get to bed an hour or two earlier tonight!


  1. Crying

When you cry, the lacrimal glands in your eyes work harder than usual to produce tears. These tears are more watery than the usual fluid in your eyes, affecting the tissues in your eyelids. The differences in salt concentration between the two fluids can cause swelling around the eye and it’s a completely normal side effect of crying. Again, a cool compress should help rid puffy eyes caused by crying.


  1. Seasonal allergies

Plenty of us have been victims of seasonal allergies like hay fever. Your body defends itself against these types of allergies (and even reactions to pet fur or certain shower or body products) by releasing a chemical compound called histamine. As a side effect of its defence, histamine can cause swelling in different parts of the body, particularly around your eyes. You can take anti-histamine medication to help reduce this swelling if you’re struggling with seasonal allergies.


  1. Alcohol consumption

Alcohol has numerous effects on your eyes and overall vision, one of the main impacts being dry eyes. Having dry eyes can lead to a slightly puffy appearance as the lack of lubrication irritates your eyes and encourages swelling. Too much alcohol in your system can also increase fluid retention, once again leading to puffy eyes. Cutting back on alcohol consumption will go a long way to reducing this, as well as ensuring you stay well hydrated.


  1. Sedentary lifestyle

If you lie down for long periods, gravity can cause fluid to collect in your face. This may also be a reason that your eyes look especially puffy in the mornings, even if you feel well rested. Keep active, exercise regularly, and make sure to sit up rather than lie down when you’re resting but not sleeping. The actions should all help to boost your circulation and reduce the appearance of puffy eyes.


  1. Cold or flu

Having a cold or the flu is one of the most common reasons for developing puffy eyes. If your sinuses are blocked, the problem can be particularly bad because the fluids can’t drain properly, contributing to a puffy appearance. Make sure you stay well hydrated and take anti-congestion medicine if necessary to help clear your sinuses.


  1. Menstruation

We all know you might feel a bit more bloated around your stomach at that time of the month, but did you know this extends to your eyes too? The area around your eyes retains more fluid when you’re menstruating, creating a swollen puffy look. Thankfully, this should pass within a couple of days – along with the typical bloated stomach – and you should be back to your usual self in no time!


Do you need treatment for puffy eyes?


Most likely not. Usually, puffy eyes are not a cause for concern. Occasionally, they can be an indication of thyroid issues, so if none of the above 7 causes of puffy eyes – and their associated treatments – seem to apply to you, it might not be a bad idea to consult your doctor. If you are experiencing eye pain, you should also seek medical help in case it is a symptom of something more serious. Generally, sleeping well and staying hydrated should help you avoid puffy eyes.

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