What Causes Puffy Eyes and How to Get Rid of Them

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By Stacey Feintuch, Healthy Women

Ugh! Your eyes didn’t look this awful when you went to sleep last night. But this morning, they appear so puffy and swollen. How did your eyes change so much since you put your head down on your pillow?

Rest assured, it usually isn’t a reason to worry about. Once you learn the culprit behind why your eyes look so puffy, find out how to get rid of puffy eyes.

Note: Eye swelling usually goes away on its own in a day. If the puffiness is still around after 24 to 48 hours, contact your health care or eye care professional to make sure something else isn’t going on.

Read on to find out what’s causing all this swelling.

You had a poor night’s sleep.
A bad night’s slumber can cause your eyes to look swollen when you wake up in the morning. That’s especially the case when you’re stressed. Why? Your body releases the hormone cortisol, which changes your body’s salt balance. Because your salt balance is out of whack, you may retain water in the eye area, leading to swelling of tissues around your eyes.

You have a thyroid condition.
Puffy eyes may be a side effect of some types of hyperthyroidism—an overactive thyroid. You may get a thickening of the fat around your eyes, which causes puffiness.

You’re suffering from edema.
If your eyes are puffier when you wake up in the morning, it may be due to fluid retention, called edema. (Fluid may be more likely to get trapped in your lower eyelid as you get older.) Once you wake up and start blinking, you may notice that your eyes start to look less puffy.

You hiked up the heat.
When you crank up the temperature in your house, your eyes can become more sensitive and drier. That’s because heat can dry out your eyeball’s mucous membranes. That makes the tissue in your eyes thicken and get more irritated. And that leads to puffiness.

You’re not thoroughly rinsing your face and hair.
Face cleansers (especially ones with salicylic acid, glycolic acid or retinol), shampoos and conditioners can get trapped in the folds of your eyelids. Further irritation can be caused by eye makeup removers, eye shadows and mascara, which boast fragrances and preservatives. You rub your eyes to get rid of the irritation. That rubbing creates inflammation. And that leads to leaky blood vessels. The fluid that seeps out gets to the nearby tissues, creating puffiness.

You’re suffering from seasonal allergies.
When you have allergies, your eyes are contacting airborne allergens. When those allergens hit your eyes, they dissolve in your tears and contact the lining of the eye. They react with antibodies that are tied to the cells in your eyes. That causes your body to release histamine (a chemical your immune system makes) into your system. Sometimes, when histamine releases into the skin, it can cause a hive-like reaction, especially around the eyes.

You’ve been crying.
When you cry, your eyes are working hard to make tears. Since the eye glands must work overtime to make tears, they’re creating tear fluid that’s waterier and less salty. So, the differences in salt concentration between these tears and the surrounding tissues causes some swelling of the eyelid.

You’re dealing with that time of the month.
Blame it on being a woman. Just like how you bloat all over when you have your period, your eyes can do the same. Eye swelling caused by your period typically goes away after a few days.

You drank too much.
Did you overdo it at happy hour? Your eyes bear the impact of even small changes in your diet. So, if you drink too much alcohol, your body can get dehydrated—the same goes for your eyes.

You’re aging.
Unfortunately, aging is a cause of puffy eyes. Over time, the tissue in your eyelids can weaken. That can cause fat to fall in your upper eyelid and come to rest in your lower eyelid.

How to Get Rid of Puffy Eyes

Is it impossible for you to wake up bright-eyed and bushy tailed? Maybe these days getting eight hours of sleep is a mere dream. Perhaps you arise before the birds every day for a long commute. Or maybe you’ve been crying while watching a sappy movie. 

Whatever the case, you’re suffering from puffy eyes. It isn’t a pretty sight. You wish you could just wear a face mask all day. You need help—fast! 

Here are some simple tricks to help you banish those puffy eyes and fake your way to perfect-looking peepers. We promise you’ll look like a well-rested woman, even if you’ve barely hit the pillow. (Always consult your health care provider before starting any medical treatment.)

  1. Try some tea. Soak two caffeinated tea bags in warm water. Chill this mild diuretic for a few minutes in the fridge. Put one bag on each eye for five minutes to leave eyes feeling refreshed. The tea’s caffeine helps constrict the eye’s blood vessels, reducing your puffy eyes.
  2. Apply hemorrhoid cream. It tightens puffy areas quickly and reduces wrinkles, too. Bothered by its strong smell? Before applying it, mix in some of your moisturizer to lessen the odor. Just be sure not to get it in your eyes; otherwise, you risk irritation or an allergic reaction. 
  3. Slice some cucumber. Hit the produce aisle for brighter eyes and a refreshed feeling all over. Cut a few slices of cold cucumbers; they contain antioxidants that help reduce irritation. Lie down. For 30 minutes, place a slice over each eye. The coolness will help soothe puffiness.
  4. Hit the spoons. The sharp cold of metal helps revive tired eyes and hike your energy to boot. Grab two clean metal teaspoons. Hold them for a few minutes under very cold running water. Lie down. For 30 to 60 seconds, put the bowls of the spoons over your eyelids; the spoons will fit perfectly against your eye sockets.
  5. Snag your baby’s teething rings. You read that right! This baby pain soother can help invigorate you and decrease eye puffiness. Place two gel-filled teething rings in the freezer. Keep them there until they’re ice cold. Lie down. For about 10 minutes, put the rings on your closed eyelids. 
  6. Cut back on sugar. When you eat sugar, you’re triggering inflammation all over your body. Since the skin under the eye is prone to swelling and it’s thin, you’re seeing that inflammation there. Try to cut as much sugar as possible from your diet and you’ll notice an immediate improvement. 
  7. Rub your eyes. Short on time? Run your fingers under very cold water or put them on some ice cubes. Start at the inner corners of your eyes and press down on the skin until you get to the outer eye corners. Repeat. This process helps drain fluid that’s beneath your eyes.
  8. Say goodbye to hairspray. The tiny aerosol particles are known to get on eyelids and irritate the skin in the area. Try to avoid using it if possible. Can’t give it up? Wash your face after you spray to help eliminate some of the particles. Also, proceed carefully when using other sprays like deodorants, room fresheners and body mists (especially if you’re sensitive to dust, pollen and pets).
  9. Smooth on eye cream. The right eye cream can help banish puffiness. Look for ones with anti-inflammatory ingredients that can improve circulation. Find formulas with glycerin, vitamin C and shea butter. 
  10. Swap face cleansers. Facial cleaners can leave behind residue that can get trapped in the folds of the eyelids. And that can cause puffiness around the eyes. Consider switching to a hypoallergenic variety.
  11. Put on a potato. Did you know that potatoes can help alleviate eye puffiness? Potatoes contain a skin-lightening enzyme that can help relieve swelling. Grate two tablespoons of raw potato. Place it into two empty tea bags (to keep things clean) and put one over each eye. 
  12. Find relief in the freezer. In a pinch? Grab an ice cube to help shrink swollen blood vessels. The ice’s coolness will perk up your eyes and leave your face looking awake and alert.
  13. Hydrate. Dehydration can cause eye puffiness. Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily to keep your skin hydrated and healthy. And speaking of beverages, limit alcohol, which can make you dehydrated.
  14. Prop up a pillow. Keep your head propped above your heart using a few firm pillows. When you elevate, you’ll increase circulation and prevent extra fluid from settling around your eyes.
  15. Watch your salt. Salt makes you retain fluid. And that makes you bloated everywhere, especially near the eyes, where there’s little room for the fluid to disperse. Lower your salt intake by avoiding high-sodium items like prepackaged soups, pizza and potato chips.
  16. Make a cool compress. Rest a cool washcloth on your eyelids for about 10 minutes. It can help drain excess fluid from beneath your eyes. Or wrap a bag of frozen veggies in a towel; put it over your eyes for 10 minutes to help reduce fluid buildup.
  17. Address allergies. Do you have allergies seasonally or year-round? They can cause puffiness. Allergies can make you rub your eyes more, and they get even puffier. Speak with your health care provider to help devise the right treatment plan. 


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