The Difference Between Eye Puffiness & Eye Bags

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Your eyes are often the first thing a person notices. Tired-looking eyes may cause you to appear ill to others. A number of factors can cause eye puffiness or bags under the eyes. Knowing the major difference between the two can help you determine ways to alleviate them.

Eye Bags

Bags are created as the skin stretches and sags due to loss of muscle tone, and fat accumulates beneath the eye socket. Retro-orbital or fat pockets naturally surround the eyes, protecting them from bumps and bruises. Bags under the eyes are also called blepharochalasis, most often seen under the lower eyelid. Bags around the upper eyelids are often caused by drooping eyebrows, which in turn increase downward pressure and gravity on the upper lids and create bulging pockets around the upper lid and corners of the eyes.

Eye Puffiness

Slightly swollen eyelids, sagging or excess skin and dark circles under the eyes often give them a bruised, tired-looking appearance. This puffiness is noted around the entire eye, while eye bags are usually prominently displayed beneath the eye. Puffiness is also a sign of aging, loose skin, states Dr. Paul Lazar, a Northwestern University clinical dermatology professor.


Eye bags, or under-eye puffiness that looks like crescents is caused by a number of factors—including some medical conditions, obesity, allergies and aging processes—according to Dr. Michael Bermant, a American board-certified plastic surgeon. However, eye bags are most commonly caused by an accumulation of fluid beneath the lower eyelid. Eye puffiness may be caused by inadequate sleep, medical conditions like dermatitis or allergies, and fluid retention caused by hormones or salty foods, according to the Mayo Clinic.


Eye bags are often treated through a plastic surgical procedure called blepharoplasty, where excess fat and skin are removed from around the eye to create a more youthful, fresh appearance. For eye puffiness, cold compresses placed over the eyes may help reduce the appearance of swollen or sagging skin following mild pressure for several minutes. Allergy medications may also help relieve some puffiness or swelling around the eyes, suggests the Mayo Clinic. Tapping the upper and lower eyelids can help displace the fluid and reduce puffiness and swelling, as can moistened tea bags placed on closed eyelids for about 15 minutes.


Because eye puffiness or bags may be caused by a medical condition such as kidney or thyroid problems, consult a doctor if home remedies don't alleviate the problem.