- Puffy eyes are often due to allergic reactions and can be triggered by such irritants as pet dander, dust mites and mold.
- Puffy eyes are a result of three different forms of allergies: airborne, contact and ingested.
- Several over the counter (OTC) and prescription treatments are available to treat the causes and symptoms of puffy eyes.
The eyes are typically where the signs of allergies are most commonly seen, including swollen and watery eyes, redness and itching. A variety of treatments exist, including home remedies, OTC and prescription medications.
The treatment you choose will often depend on the severity of the allergic reaction and the root cause.
Why Do Allergies Cause Puffy Eyes?
Allergies are triggered by exposure to certain environmental agents that are harmless to most people’s systems. However, for those with allergies, the immune system reacts defensively by releasing histamines into the bloodstream to fight these allergens. These histamines cause the blood vessels in the eye to become puffy and swollen.
Airborne allergens such as mold spores, pollen, pet dander and dust mites typically cause itching, redness, watering and swelling of the eyes. This is usually accompanied by sneezing, and an itchy and runny nose.
Other types of allergic reactions, including those specific to cosmetics and contact lenses, generally don’t affect the nose. These are a result of contact allergies, where the allergen come in direct contact with the eye and invokes a response. In other words, the symptoms are confined to the contacted area and can include the following:
- Swollen blood vessels
- Watery eyes
- Red eyes
Which Allergies Cause Puffy Eyes?
Allergies that cause puffy eyes are a result of three different forms: airborne, contact and ingested. For each type, the allergen enters the body and causes the immune system to overreact, releasing histamines which in turn cause the inflammation.
Airborne allergies often affect both the eyes and nose. Among the airborne allergies that cause puffy eyes are seasonal allergies, caused by increased pollen in the air from various sources, including various grasses and ragweed. Other airborne allergens include mold spores, pet dander and dust mites.
Contact allergies are caused by direct physical contact with the allergen, and are contained within the range of that contact. Common contact allergens to cause puffy eyes are makeup, contact lenses and certain eye drops.
Allergies that cause puffy eyes via ingestion are often food allergies, which may also cause swelling of facial tissues. Those who suffer from lactose intolerance may experience puffy eyes as a side effect of overall bloating caused by this condition. Shellfish allergies also cause inflammation that can affect the eye area.
How to Treat Puffy Eyes Caused by Allergies
It is important to note that not all cases of puffy eyes are caused by allergies; when seeking treatment, be sure you are treating the appropriate underlying cause. Lack of sleep, aging and diets heavy in salt can all cause swelling in the eye area.
However, when puffiness is caused by allergies, some degree of itching is usually present.
Many allergy sufferers find relief by using OTC products formulated to alleviate the symptoms of allergies in the eye area. Eye drops are a common option and include tear substitutes, antihistamines, and ones that contain mast cell stabilizers.
Tear substitutes help to form a barrier over the eye that protects it from airborne allergens, and helps to flush out potential contact allergens. Antihistamine drops work to reduce swelling and puffiness that have already been initiated by the allergen by blocking histamine receptors. Eye drops that contain mast-cell stabilizers will inhibit mast cells from producing antihistamines, therefore preventing an inflammatory allergic reaction.
Other than eye drops, certain sprays and oral medications can be effective in treating puffy eyes caused by allergies. Studies suggest that liposomal sprays may be as effective as antihistamine eye drops when it comes to alleviating allergy symptoms.
Oral antihistamines may also provide temporary relief from allergy symptoms; these medications block the body’s production of histamines and prevent a reaction to the allergen from occurring.
Home remedies are limited for this particular condition, however, for fast, at-home relief, apply cold compresses to temporarily reduce eye puffiness and itching caused by allergies.
Some claim that placing cool cucumber slices on your eyes, or dabbing cool water infused with chamomile around the eyes will also aid in reducing puffiness.
Rinsing the eyes gently with cool water to remove any irritants and ensuring that makeup and creams stay out of the eyes will contribute to reducing the level of irritants in your eyes and alleviate puffiness in the eye area. Additionally, if you wear contacts, discontinue use as they may be causing or worsening your symptoms.
When to See a Doctor
Those experiencing prolonged symptoms or symptoms that routinely interfere with their overall quality of life should discuss the situation with their physician.
Your doctor can work with you to devise a customized strategy designed to keep incidents of swelling, redness, watering and itching to a minimum after identifying the primary irritant. You may also be referred to a specialist.
Your doctor can provide more intense treatment options, such as corticosteroid drops or injections for allergies.
Corticosteroids treat allergy symptoms by suppressing the immune system, and preventing it from overreacting to allergens. Injections, also called allergen immunotherapy, also affect the immune system, but rather than suppressing it, they function like a vaccine. These injections allow your immune system to gradually build up a tolerance to the allergen that causes your puffy eye symptoms. While they will not provide immediate relief, but should eventually.
Allergies, either caused by airborne allergens, contact with irritants or certain foods, cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms affecting the eyes, including watering, itching, redness and swelling.
Remedies include OTC products such as eye drops, antihistamines and artificial tears, as well as cold compresses for temporary relief. If symptoms are severe, it is best to contact your doctor or an allergy specialist, who can prescribe more intense treatments such as allergen immunotherapy.
It often takes a combination of trial and error to identify which strategies work best for each individual, as triggers can be difficult to identify. Treatments can provide temporary or long-term relief, depending on the nature of the treatment and cause of the allergy.
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- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Dust mite allergies: Overview. 2017 Jul 13. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK447098/
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