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Puffy Eyes – A Sign of Something Wrong?

Puffy eyes could be a sign of something wrong – or it could be that there’s nothing at all to be concerned about. As it’s often said – if it persists see your therapeutically certified optometrist.

Known in medical terminology as periorbital (about or around the ball – in this case the eyeball), puffy eyes describes swelling around the eyes, usually the lower lids.

Eyes can be puffy for a variety of reasons but they can be categorised as:


Natural Causes

•    Too much work, especially in front of the computer, tiredness from staying up too late, getting too little sleep, and funnily enough staying in bed too long and getting too much sleep! Go figure that out!

•    Taking too much salt leading to the body and the eyes retaining too much fluid

•    Drinking too much alcohol and smoking

•    Getting old – everything starts to sag a bit and the eyes are no exception

•    Pregnancy and hormonal changes

Mild Inflammations

Along with watery eyes and itchy eyes, puffy eyes are a symptom of many inflammations and irritations.

Puffy eyes often accompany allergic reactions to pollen, chemicals in the house, some shampoos, fur, feathers and more; treatment is by use of antihistamines or identifying the substance being reacted to, and avoiding it.

Bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with a course of antibiotics.

Viral conjunctivitis – no antibiotics allowed, so the body and the eye have to do the work of recovery.

Are you on a medication of some kind that has a side effect of puffy eyes?

Severe Disorders

Again puffy eyes are a symptom indicating that all is not well with the eyes and if initial treatment is unsuccessful then further examination is required to ascertain if there is a more severe disorder active.

Tear gland dysfunction – when the tear ducts are blocked, puffy eyes can precede a small bump (called a Chalazion) forming.

Some thyroid disorders including Graves’ disease start with puffy eyes.

Blepharitis – an eye infection linked to a weakened immune system.

There are quite few more, but a final comment – if puffy eyes are accompanied by facial swelling then seek Optometrical help.

Treatment of Puffy Eyes

In the case of puffy eyes stemming from natural causes it’s mainly a matter of lifestyle change rather than anything.

Reduce alcohol intake and stop (don’t try and reduce) smoking! More exercise will assist in improved sleep patterns and use up time that was spent in doing too much work, and exercise will reduce the amount of liquids in the body through improved circulation.

There are quite a few natural (some of them quite weird) remedies for instant recovery from puffy eyes. A cold compress on the eyes is considered quite a normal thing to do, but what about wet tea bags pre-cooled in the fridge, or sliced cucumber or raw potato? It’s thought with the tea bags that they probably carry out some astringent task, meaning they shrink pores and tissues, so helping to alleviate swelling.  Having said that they probably just work because they are cold!

Vitamin supplements are reputed to help (or why not instead increase the intake of foods that contain the vitamins). Vitamins A found in green vegetables, C in orange juice and E from oils, nuts and seeds.

Over the counter (OTC) decongestant drugs can help in reducing water in the nasal and eye areas, and hopefully swelling in puffy eyes. Mild diuretics that increase water loss can be prescribed.

Physical action remedies include sleeping with the head elevated with a deep pillow rather than flat on the bed, also placing cold teaspoons on the (presumably closed) eyelids – just don’t let anyone see you!

About the Author

Dr Jim Kokkinakis (Optometrist) graduated in 1983 from the Optometry School University of NSW. He is currently a Senior Lecturer there and regular speaker to both Optometrists and Ophthalmologists in Australia and Internationally. He has a specialist clinical practice in the Sydney CBD with interests in Eye Strain, Computer Vision problems, Treatment of Eye Diseases and complex Contact lens Fittings.

Comments (2)

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  1. anirudh says:

    what about laser treatment?

    • Jim (http://www NULL.optometrist says:

      Laser treatment on puffy eyes is not a good option as the eye lids are already inflamed. Laser is likely to inflame them more. It is far better to try and find out the cause and treat it before taking any aggressive options such as laser.

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