What Are Under-Eye Bags?

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You’re not weird for having bags under your eyes. This skin condition is common—especially as you get older. Under-eye bags can form for many other reasons, too. While sometimes they’re a sign of an underlying condition, having them doesn’t mean there’s something physically wrong with you.

That said, having puffiness or bags around the eyes can make you look sleepy and unwell. Thankfully, there are ways to reduce the look of sagging, under-eye skin.

Close up of a man´s eye outdoors
 Getty Images / David Trood

Under-Eye Bags Symptoms

How do you know you have bags under your eyes? Symptoms include:

  • Sagging 
  • Swelling
  • Puffiness 

If accompanied by other symptoms, under-eye bags may be a sign of Graves’ disease, which is a thyroid disease that affects the eyes. Other eye-related symptoms include pain and redness, eye-bulging, irritation, and dryness. In later stages, the disease can also cause vision issues.

Causes

Wondering what causes under-eye bags? They can happen for a number of reasons.

Genetics

Under-eye bags also tend to run in families. If your close relatives are prone to developing bags under their eyes, you have a higher risk of developing them, too.

Age

Aging is one of the most likely causes of bags under the eyes. As you age, your skin loses elasticity and succumbs to gravity. In your eye area, the fat tends to shift around the lower eyelids, creating a puffy, swollen appearance.

Lifestyle 

Certain habits can also increase your risk of developing under-eye bags. Poor sleep, smoking, and high salt intake can contribute to the formation of under-eye bags.

Allergies that produce nasal or sinus congestion will also increase puffiness around the eyes. Congestion can cause blood to pool in the capillaries underneath the eyes, leading to puffiness and dark circles called allergic shiners. You can try to stay away from allergens as much as possible to prevent swelling and puffiness in the eye area.

Preventing Under-Eye Bags

While you can’t reverse the aging process, you can do a few things to prevent bags from forming under your eyes:

Diagnosis

Under-eye bags are usually self-diagnosed. You don’t typically need to see a doctor unless you suspect an underlying issue like thyroid disease, allergies, or a sleep disorder. It is also good to see a doctor if your under-eye bags or dark circles are bothering you and making you feel self-conscious.

If your eye area feels itchy, hot to the touch, or painful, and the problem doesn’t seem to be clearing up, see a doctor to rule out an infection or other diagnosis. 

Treatment

Here are some of the available treatment options for under-eye bags. 

Home Remedies 

A cold compress is a handy solution for dealing with occasionally under-eye swelling and puffiness. Cooling limits swelling and reduces the appearance of tired eyes. Grabbing an ice pack is a quick and easy way to treat this condition at home. There’s evidence that putting green or black tea bags under the eyes may help reduce inflammation.

Topical Treatments 

Caffeine-infused creams and hemorrhoid treatments can both help if applied directly to the skin under the eyes. You should be careful when using anything around the eye area since the skin around the eyes is very sensitive. However, these kinds of topicals are effective in reducing swelling.

Skin Lightening 

A skin lightening treatment, like hydroquinone, can help reduce hyperpigmentation or dark circles in the under-eye area. However, hydroquinone will not prevent or treat sagging of the skin.

Lifestyle Changes

A few targeted lifestyle changes can help reduce the appearance of under-eye bags. These include:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Limiting salt intake
  • Avoiding fluids before bed
  • Sleeping with your head slightly elevated
  • Avoiding allergens
  • Quitting smoking 

Non-Invasive Medical Treatments 

If other methods haven't provided relief, consider these non-invasive treatment options for dark circles or puffiness:

  • Laser: This involves lasering the area to remove layers of skin and encourage cell growth. It’s a long-lasting treatment that helps firm up skin.  
  • Radiofrequency: Instead of a laser, this treatment utilizes an electric current to tighten the skin. 
  • Intense pulsed light: This treatment helps get rid of hyperpigmentation for an even skin tone.
  • Fillers: Injecting the under-eye area with fillers helps prevent smooth out the area beneath the eyes. 
  • Chemical peel: This method also removes layers, but instead of a layer, doctors use a chemical solution. It results in skin that is brighter and tauter.

Surgery

You can also get surgery to treat under-eye bags. The cosmetic surgery to reduce under-eye bags is called a blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery). It involves lifting and tightening the skin in the under-eye area to create a smooth look. It typically produces lifelong results.

You can also use makeup to conceal dark under-eye circles and puffiness. While cosmetics won’t get rid of sagging under the eyes, it can reduce the appearance of shadows cast by the baggy skin. 

Word From Verywell

No one enjoys looking in the mirror and seeing bags under their eyes. While under-eye bags are a fact of life for many people, there are treatment options to help you reduce their appearance. Lifestyle changes can help if the bags under your eyes are caused by sleep deprivation or poor diet.

If your under-eye bags are the result of aging and they’re making you feel self-conscious, you can choose from non-invasive and invasive treatment options. Many non-invasive treatments for sagging skin under the eyes provide long-lasting results. If you’re interested in something more permanent, surgery may be the answer. 

Most of the time, under-eye bags are nothing to worry about. Sure, they’re annoying, but they don’t usually point to underlying health problems. If you have other symptoms or experience discomfort around the eye area, get in touch with a medical professional.

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