Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why Your Eyes Get Puffy

Awakening to puffy, swollen eyes is frustrating, especially when you know there’s no simple 10-minute solution that will get you out the door looking brand new. Puffiness or bags under the eyes can be caused by several factors: fluid retention, irritation causing inflammation, loss of skin firmness and elasticity as we age, allergies, eye disorders secondary to medical disorders, fat deposits, and fatigue. Several of these triggers come from poor sleep.

Excess fluid (edema) under the eye is one of the major causes of eye “puffiness,” and an increase in blood pressure is the likely culprit for many as a direct consequence to sleep deprivation. An elevated blood pressure causes vessels to constrict and invite fluid retention. Many of the known sleep disorders can also cause excess fluid or edema to occur not only in the eye area but in several parts of the body.

Is it possible for a person with retained fluid to reduce that baggage and puffiness under the eyes with getting a good night’s sleep over time? Certainly. And if you can reduce the fluid retention, you’ll also change the surrounding tissues for the better, especially since the accumulated excess fluid in the under-eye area may cause additional inflammation and swelling.

Medical conditions can also change the appearance of the eye, particularly thyroid problems like hypothyroidism (which can also be linked to sleep apnea). For most, however, getting enough sleep is all that’s necessary. Avoiding excess alcohol will also alleviate eye bags (as well as disrupted sleep!).

Attention allergy sufferers : Those with allergies typically have issues with puffy, inflamed eyes. They also face the challenge of getting quality sleep when bothered by allergies during the night. Sometimes taking anti-histamines can help to reduce baggy eyes, but this can come with a hefty price-tag because these medications can cause daytime sleepiness. What’s worse, the act of coughing and sneezing itself can cause forced air to escape through the sinuses. This, in turn, pushes air behind the fat pockets under the eyes, which then causes those fat pockets to protrude forward. Ask your doctor how best to manage your allergies so they don’t interfere with sleep, and neither does your medication.

{from Dr. Michael Breus, PhD, author of the book Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health.}

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