Periorbital puffiness, also known as "puffy eyes" or swelling around the eyes, refers to the appearance of swelling in the tissues around the eyes, called the orbits. It is almost exclusively caused by fluid buildup around the eyes, or periorbital edema. Minor puffiness usually detectable below the eyes only (although at times they could be present all around) is often called eye bags. Such transient puffiness is distinct from the age related and gradual increase in the size of the fat pad lying below the lower eye lids (suborbicularis oculi fat - "SOOF") which can also be colloquially referred to as eye bags.
While some degree of puffiness may be normal for a given individual, factors such as age and fatigue may make the swelling more prominent. The periorbital tissues are most noticeably swollen immediately after waking, perhaps due to the gravitational redistribution of fluid in the horizontal position. Eye puffiness may also be caused by:
Mononucleosis - With supra-orbital oedema, the eyes become puffy and swollen. This may occur in the early stages of infection.
Fluid retention - Many conditions (including pregnancy and hormonal variations with menstruation) can lead to the retention of fluid, particularly in the subcutaneous tissues. These conditions can cause swelling around the eyes to be more prominent. (This cause can by partly alleviated by raising the head of one's bed.)
Diet - Excess salt encourages fluid retention and may lead to puffy eyes. (This cause can by partly alleviated by paying more attention to salt intake and becoming aware of the large amount of sodium in common processed foods. In addition, exercise helps remove salt through sweat.)
Alcohol and tobacco use - Alcohol and tobacco contain toxins that may lead to stress, fatigue, and hormonal changes; all of which may lead to fluid retention and swelling around the eyes.
Allergies - Allergic reactions can lead to leaks in the subcutaneous capillary beds which can cause swelling in the face, including around the eyes.
Skin disorders - Eye puffiness can be a side effect of certain skin disorders, such as dermatitis, if the affected area becomes very sensitive, leading to swelling.
Normal aging - As a person grows older, the skin around the eyes becomes thinner and may swell or droop. Further a gradual and generally permanent increase in the size of the suborbicularis oculi fat pad along with the thinning and weakening of the overlying musculature contributes to the apparent distention of the lower eye lids.
Puffy eyes are usually only a temporary cosmetic worry, but occasionally, individuals become concerned about the cosmetic effect of periorbital swelling and seek surgical correction. Severe and persistent puffiness may be a sign of other serious medical conditions.
For someone predisposed to eye puffiness, changes to diet and lifestyle (under the supervision of a physician) may be required to reduce the possibility of swelling. A cold compress near the eye can act as a short-term remedy as cold temperature constricts blood vessels, preventing the flow of fluid into tissues and diminishing puffiness in the process.
Live Yeast Cell Derivative (LYCD) may be effective; however for reasons that are unclear it was banned in the USA by the FDA in 1993. It is available everywhere else.
Elevating the head while sleeping can prevent the gravitational redistribution of fluid that is associated with eye swelling. A low-carb diet can prevent eye puffiness by preventing water retention. Eating foods rich in vitamins, especially A, C and E, helps to reduce eye puffiness and to maintain clear, moist skin.