Puffy Eyes Causes and How to Get Rid of Them

Medically Reviewed By Megan Soliman, MD
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Puffy eyes typically result from aging or lifestyle factors such as a lack of sleep or fluid retention. There are several home remedies you can try to reduce the appearance of puffy eyes, especially in the morning. Puffy eyes that are persistent or occur with other symptoms may be a sign of a medical condition. Seek medical attention if you are concerned about puffy eyes.

Keep reading to learn more about the causes and treatment for puffy eyes, including home remedies, skin treatments, and surgery.

Aging and lifestyle causes of puffy eyes

a woman is touching her eyes
ohlamour studio/Stocksy United

Aging is the most common cause of puffy eyes. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the tissue in your skin begins to weaken and sag as you grow older. This can cause the fat around your eyes to shift towards the lower eyelid, making the eye look puffier.

There are also other possible causes of puffy eyes, including:

Several treatment methods can help reduce the appearance of puffy eyes due to aging and lifestyle-related causes. Always seek medical help if you feel concerned about puffy eyes or they occur alongside other symptoms.

Home remedies for puffy eyes

The following home remedies can help lessen the appearance of puffy eyes:

  • Use a cold compress: Place a damp washcloth over your eyes for a few minutes.
  • Get enough sleep: Establishing a healthy sleep routine can ensure you are getting quality sleep.
  • Raise the head of your bed slightly: Raising the head of your bed by a few inches can help prevent fluid from settling in your eyes.
  • Avoid drinking fluids before bed: Extra fluids before bed can lead to eye puffiness upon waking.
  • Avoid consuming excess salt: Salt helps your body retain fluid. Consuming excess salt may lead to puffy eyes.
  • Avoid tobacco products: Smoking can cause the delicate skin under your eyes to become thinner. This may make your eyes seem puffier.

Learn about causes and treatments for dark circles under the eyes.

Skin therapies for under-eye puffiness

Several skin treatments are available to help reduce the appearance of puffy lower eyelids, or eye bags. They can help tighten the skin, making skin tone appear more even.

Talk with an ophthalmologist about other treatments if lifestyle changes are not effective for puffy eyes. These can include:

  • laser resurfacing
  • chemical peels
  • fillers

Eyelid surgery for puffy eyes

A type of eyelid surgery known as blepharoplasty might help reduce the appearance of eye puffiness. It can be performed under or over the eyes, depending on the case, and is typically an outpatient procedure.

During a blepharoplasty, a surgeon will cut an incision along the lower or upper lash line. They will then remove or move excess fat or skin through the incision before closing it up.

Talk with your ophthalmologist about the benefits and risks of blepharoplasty. Risks can include undesired changes to the appearance of your face, such as an altered browline. 

See before and after photos of eyelid surgery.

Allergic reactions are a common cause of puffy eyes. Examples include food allergies and hay fever. They may also be caused by animal dander, dust, cosmetics, or pollen.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergy treatments usually involve avoiding allergens, medications, and immunotherapy. Immunotherapy can involve a doctor administering allergens as a shot or placing them under your tongue.

Inflammatory causes of puffy eyes

Infections or irritation can cause inflammation, leading to puffy eyes. Causes of inflammation can include:

  • bacterial infection
  • blepharitis, inflammation of the eyelid margin
  • chalazion, inflammation of a blocked oil gland in the eyelid margin
  • conjunctivitis, inflammation of the eye surface
  • corneal abrasion or ulcer
  • periorbital cellulitis, infection of the eyelids or soft tissue around the eyes
  • sinusitis, an inflammation or infection of the sinuses
  • stye or hordeolum, a localized bacterial infection of an oil gland or eyelash follicle in the eyelid margin
  • viral infection
  • thyroid disease, which can cause inflammation in the tissue around the eyes

Contact a doctor as soon as possible if you notice redness, swelling, teariness, or blurry vision along with puffy eyes. These symptoms can be a sign of infection and may require treatment with antibiotics.

Learn more about what can cause swollen eyes.

Chemical causes of puffy eyes

Puffy eyes can also be caused by exposure to chemical irritants such as:

  • household cleaning solvents
  • personal care products such as:
    • makeup
    • moisturizers
    • shampoo
    • soap
  • swimming pool chlorine

Stopping the use of these products immediately and switching to gentler alternatives will usually resolve symptoms. However, contact a doctor if your symptoms persist or worsen.

How is the cause of puffy eyes diagnosed?

Your puffy eyes may be the result of an underlying condition. To determine the cause, your doctor will ask you several questions, which can include:

  • When did you first notice your puffy eyes?
  • Are you experiencing any sensitivity to light?
  • Do you have any other symptoms involving your eyes?
  • Have you had any changes in your vision along with your puffy eyes?
  • Do you have other symptoms such as a stuffy nose or postnasal drip?

Your doctor may then order further tests to assess your vision or other functions depending on what they find.

Frequently asked questions

The following are some frequently asked questions about puffy eyes.

Can COVID make your eyes swell?

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, orbital cellulitis has been reported in connection with some cases of COVID-19. However, researchers are not completely sure of the nature of this link.

Orbital cellulitis is a rare condition that causes your eye to swell. It results from an infection in the bloodstream that spreads to the eye. It is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.

What foods cause puffy eyes?

Foods that are high in salt can cause puffy eyes. These include:

  • bread, rolls, and sandwiches
  • savory snacks such as chips and popcorn
  • pizza
  • cold cuts and cured meats
  • cheese
  • soups
  • burritos and tacos
  • chicken
  • eggs

Summary

Puffy eyes typically result from aging and fluid retention. However, they may be a sign of an allergic reaction, irritation, or other inflammatory response such as an infection.

There are several ways to help reduce the appearance of puffy eyes due to aging and lifestyle factors. These include using cold compresses and raising the head of your bed.

Seek medical attention if you are concerned about puffy eyes or other symptoms.

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Medical Reviewer: Megan Soliman, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Oct 28
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.