While periorbital edema, more commonly referred to as ‘puffiness around the eyes’, is usually temporary, it’s important to determine its root cause to ensure there aren’t any serious underlying health conditions.

So before you grab those chilled tea bags or cool cucumber slices to treat the puffiness, take a moment to run through this list to see what may be the culprit behind your puffy eye situation.

8 Common Causes of Periorbital Edema (Puffy Eyes)

  1. Allergies
    Allergies are one of the main causes of puffy eyes. On a daily basis your body is exposed to countless chemicals and environmental pollutants that may set off a reaction.
    Common allergens: fragrances & dyes, dust, pollen, pet dander, mold
    Recommendation:
    The best way to deal with allergies is to reduce, avoid, or eliminate possible allergens. Use scent-free, dye-free laundry detergent, avoid other household products that contain fragrance, and use hypoallergenic beauty products.
    Seasonal allergens, such as pollen, trigger your body to release histamines which lead to inflammation and swelling. It’s important you wash your hair more often as you may be carrying pollen and other allergens with you! Also, clean your sheets at least once per week. And finally, take an antihistamine if absolutely necessary!
  2. Sinus Congestion
    Sinus congestion can interfere with fluid drainage and cause your eyes to experience puffiness.
    Recommendation:
    Clear your congestion by using a neti pot to flush out your sinuses. You can find neti pots at health food stores, drug stores, and even your local grocery store!
    Directions: Add saline solution (instructions on how to make the saline solution are normally included with your neti pot) to your neti pot. Tilt your head to one side (while bending over a sink) and pour the solution up one nostril while allowing the liquid to come out the other nostril. It’s a little tricky at first, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly!
  3. Lack of Sleep
    Lack of sleep prompts your body to produce more cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Cortisol is what keeps you alert, when your body is beyond tired. Chronically elevated cortisol levels can increase water retention and may also be responsible for your puffy eyes.
    Recommendation:
    Try and get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. If you have trouble falling asleep, consider adding white noise to drown out other sounds and encourage uninterrupted sleep.
  4. Improper Sleep Position
    Believe it or not, you may have been sleeping in the wrong position and compromising your body’s own ability to drain excess fluid around your eyes! Yep, that’s right! If you’re a tummy or side sleeper, fluid will accumulate in your orbital area.
    Recommendation:
    To avoid waking up with puffy eyes in the morning, sleep on your back to allow fluids to drain away from your face while you sleep.
  5. Too Much Salt!
    Sodium causes your body to hold on to excess fluid, which unfortunately includes the area surrounding your eyes.
    Recommendation:
    Well this one is a no-brainer! Simply reduce your salt consumption. When buying prepackaged foods, choose ones that say ‘no salt added’ on the label so you can control the amount of salt found in your meals.
    Health Tip: Your daily intake of sodium should be under 2300mg per day.
  6. Too Much Alcohol!
    While having the occasional drink is fine, consuming alcohol on-the-daily will dehydrate your body. Dehydration causes your body to retain more water as it struggles to replenish its stores. Excess water retention is especially noticeable under your eyes – and also, not so flattering!
    Recommendation:
    Limit alcohol to special occasions only.
    If you are having a couple alcoholic beverages, stay hydrated by sipping water between each drink.
    Drink alcohol in moderation.
  7. Natural Aging Process
    If you’ve eliminated all other probable causes of periorbital edema (and you are no longer in your twenties), then age is likely the factor contributing to your under-eye puffiness. Sadly, as you get older, connective tissue and muscles weaken allowing fat to move under your eyes.
    Recommendation:
    At this point, blepharoplasty (eyelid lift) might be your only solution. Consult with your doctor to discuss your options.
  8. Underlying Health Condition(s)
    Puffiness under your eyes can be due to one or more of the factors listed above. However, if puffiness under your eyes persists, don’t hesitate to visit your family doctor. You may be suffering from an underlying health condition that must be dealt with by a health professional.

*This list is in NOT exhaustive. Various other factors such as disease and medications can cause periorbital edema. If none of the causes above are applicable to you, talk to your family doctor to ensure your health is not at risk.