Puffy eye causes, treatments and prevention

Puffy eyes are caused by a build-up of fluid in and around the eyes, this can be due to a number of things, such as:


The skin around the eyes is very thin, which makes it quite sensitive. When this skin comes into contact with allergens, like animal fur, dust mites, or pollen in the air, it can cause swelling or puffiness. It might help to take antihistamines if your puffy eyes are allergyrelated. It’s always best to check with your GP before taking any new medication.

Conjunctivitis (pink eye)

This common condition causes symptoms like eye redness, itchiness, puffiness and sometimes a discharge from the eye. If you think you have conjunctivitis you should see your GP who will likely prescribe eye drops to clear the infection.

Poor contact lens care

Puffy eyes can happen if you keep your contact lenses in for too long. A contact lens can act as a barrier on the eye, preventing enough oxygen reaching the eye. This can cause your cornea to swell or puff up. Sleeping in your lenses puts more stress on the eye which can increase the puffiness.

For tips on how to take care of your contact lenses, read more here.


The tears produced when you cry contain more water than the tears you produce when the eye is trying to clean itself out. The tissues in your eyes have a high salt content, so when the watery tears meet this tissue it causes swelling. Eye puffiness can also increase when you rub or wipe your eyes after crying. To reduce eye puffiness after crying try placing a cold flannel over the eyes for a few minutes.

Consuming too much salt

Salt causes your body to hold onto fluid, and that includes the tissues around the eyes as well. This causes the eyes to puff up. The amount of salt you can consume to cause puffy eyes will vary from person to person.

Drinking too much alcohol

Excessive alcohol intake causes many types of bodily issues, including bloating, and puffy eyes. Alcohol often causes lack of sleep as well, which contributes to puffy eyes, as a poor night’s sleep can cause fluid retention in the eyes.


Some people are genetically prone to eye puffiness, and this tends to show between 30-40 years of age. As we age, the fat deposits that usually support the eye begin to sag which causes a puffing effect. Age-related or genetic puffy eyes aren’t usually any cause for concern.

When are puffy eyes a medical problem?

Puffy eyes can sometimes be a sign of an underlying medical condition. However, this is rare and often there are other symptoms. If having puffy eyes is causing you pain or discomfort, it’s best to get it checked by your GP.


Can seasonal allergies cause puffy eyes?

Whether you’re out in the spring air, cleaning dusty areas, or near fresh cut grass, allergens are everywhere throughout the year. Allergens trigger symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and swollen eyes. 

Can stress cause puffy eyes?

Stress can cause changes to the salt balance in the body and if salt balances are off, your eyes can retain water as a result and swell.

How do I get rid of fluid under my eyes?

There are some temporary, at home remedies that may help to reduce swollen eyes such as:

  • Drinking more fluids, to prevent dehydration
  • Applying a cold compress to closed eyes
  • Applying cucumber slicers or chilled tea bags to closed eyes

If you are concerned about your puffy or swollen eyes, you should see your GP or local pharmacy for advice.

Did you know?

Most cases of puffy eyes are harmless and tend to be down to not getting enough sleep or having too much salt in your diet. Sometimes puffy eyes can be a sign of an infection or allergy, so we’d recommended you visit your GP to get it checked.