October 23, 2014
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Eye Health

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Hey, Sleepy-Eyes: what to do about puffy eyes and dark circles

You rise from your bed and shuffle into the bathroom. Peering into the mirror through bleary morning vision, you see visions of heavy sandbags, of plump pillows, of marshmallows. Are you still asleep and dreaming crazy dreams? Or do you have puffy eyes? Droopy under-eye skin, dark circles, and puffy bags can make you look fatigued, like you just pulled an all-nighter or got in a bar brawl. They don't just happen in the morning, though, and they don't always mean you're sleepless or into fisticuffs.

Run your finger gently over the skin beneath your eyes. Notice how tender it is. Just beneath the skin sits a layer of fat, but the layer beneath the skin around the eyes is very thin so our eyes can move around easily. Because the skin is so thin, it's easy to see any swelling or discoloration that might occur.

So, before you reach for your broadest Holly Golightly sunglasses, consider the possible sources and solutions to your swollen, sleepy look.

Source: heredity

Call it family baggage. You may be prone to puffy eyes if your mother or father gets them, too. If your eyes are deep-set or if your skin is naturally pale or thin, you'll also more likely see shadows beneath your eyes.
Solution: You certainly can't change your genetic makeup. You could, however, try makeup to help conceal your shadows. Try a brightening concealer in a shade as close to your normal skin tone as possible. Sometimes, baggy, saggy skin beneath and around the eyes impairs a person's vision, and in this case a surgical "eyelift" may be helpful.

Source: fluid retention

Hormonal shifts in pregnancy or around a woman's period may plump up the skin under the eyes. Some people retain water after eating too much salt or during hot weather.
Solution: Stay well-hydrated and slash your salt intake.

Source: sleep habits

Fluid can gather and puddle in the tissue around your eyes as you sleep at night, and this seems to happen more if you sleep on your stomach or lying flat.
Solution: Morning puffiness may be avoided by making a few changes to your sleep routine. Sleep on your back, and use a pillow to elevate your head a bit to keep fluid from pooling around your eyes.

Source: allergies

Say an allergen goes airborne, like pet dander or pollen. Your delicate eyes may respond to the invasion of the irritant by swelling up. And when a cold or allergy leads to nasal congestion, the veins connecting your eyes to your nose widen and become darker, giving some people that raccoon-eyed look.
Solution: Avoid your known allergens, and take note of any surprising environmental factors that prompt the puff. There are also some nasal decongestants you can try - talk to your pharmacist or doctor before starting them.

Source: crying

When emotions overflow, the lacrimal gland - your eyes' tear factory - and the tiny ducts that drain away tears overflow, too. And the rubbing we tend to do when we're weeping doesn't help to deflate the puffiness.
Solution: Tears are a healthy way to deal with overwhelming emotions, so you don't want to stifle them for cosmetic purposes. You can lessen the damage by keeping your fingers away from your eyes as much as possible. Once you've regained your composure, place a cool water compress over your eyes. Anything cool and moist will help relieve the swelling, like apple or cucumber slices or chilled tea bags.

Source: infection

An eye infection such as a stye can cause oil glands in your eyelid to puff up and swell.
Solution: Applying a warm compress 3 to 4 times a day for about 10 minutes at a time will help the stye drain. You can also try an over-the-counter antibiotic. If the infection persists, your vision changes, or you have any other symptoms, see your doctor.

And what about the fabled hemorrhoid cream remedy? While the cream's anti-inflammatory agents may temporarily reduce swelling, allergic and sensitivity reactions to the ingredients are common. Keep this old wives' tale on the shelf! Instead, seek out anti-inflammatory creams specially formulated for the tender and usually sensitive skin around the eyes.

In most cases, puffy eyes or dark circles are a temporary cosmetic annoyance. Speak to your doctor if swelling persists, as this could signal underlying issues, such as medication side effects or a problem with the kidneys or thyroid.

Amy Toffelmire


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