Waking up each morning to see under-eye bags staring back at you in the mirror can be a frustrating experience. While eye bags aren’t typically a sign of a health problem, they’re certainly not attractive.

So… why do we get under-eye bags in the first place? And are they serious?

Here’s some information on why people get under-eye bags, and what you can expect if you decide to see a doctor to address the issue.

Symptoms of Under-Eye Bags

Puffy eyes are normal — and many people develop them as they get older. As your muscles age, they get weaker — including the muscles around your eyes. This allows fat to move into the lower area of your eye, giving your lower eyelid a puffy appearance. In addition to puffiness, other indications of under-eye bags include sagging, loose skin, swelling, and the appearance of dark circles.

Why They Happen

Again, it’s important to note that eye bags are usually not an indication of any sort of issue involving your eye health. So how and why do they occur in the first place? Here are just some of the most common reasons:

1. Fat Accumulation

As mentioned earlier, fat can often be a factor in the development of under-eye bags. You might not realize it, but the fat located in your eye socket helps your eyes move smoothly. This type of fat, known as orbital fat, also acts as a cushion between your eyes and the bones that surround them. They’re actually a very important component to eye health.2

But this fat can become a cosmetic issue as the years go by. Again, when the muscles surrounding your eye socket weaken, and gravity takes hold, that leads to the migration of fat downward. The result of this fat and fluid is puffy eyes.3

2. Fluid Retention

Under-Eye Bags | Sight OriginsThe fluid under your eyes is called lymphatic fluid. The lymphatic system plays important roles, such as helping to fight infection and drain your body of toxins.4 Sometimes, however, this fluid can accumulate to the point where bags develop under the eyes.

There are other reasons why fluid retention contributes to under-eye bags. If your diet contains a lot of salt, for example, fluid may build up.5 Allergies can also cause puffiness. This occurs when congestion from your nose and sinuses disrupt the normal flow of fluid around the body.6

For women, fluid retention during your period could cause puffiness below your eyes. It’s often more noticeable around the start of your menstrual cycle.

3. Lifestyle Choices

Smoking and alcohol may also have an effect on the development of under-eye bags. In fact, evidence suggests that smoking negatively impacts your quality of sleep due to nightly nicotine withdrawal symptoms. If you smoke right before you go to sleep, that could also reduce your sleep quality to the point to where bags appear.8

You might also want to think twice before enjoying that second mojito if you’re concerned about under-eye bags. Alcohol consumption results in the loss of fluids, leading to dehydration. When this happens, your body makes up for the loss by retaining water. As you’ve already seen, fluid retention is one of the leading factors when it comes to the development of bags under your eyes.9

4. Genetics

In many instances, under-eye bags are simply determined by genetics. If you were born with thin or pale skin, eye bags will be more apparent. They’ll be even more obvious if you’re tired or stressed. The reason is that blood circulation around the eyes will become slower, allowing blood to pool, and adding to a puffy appearance. The accumulation of fat around your eyes may also be partly due to genetics. Some people are at a higher risk of experiencing something called “subluxation.” This is where fat moves from under the eyeball to the front portion of your eye.10

Talking to Your Doctor About How to Get Rid of Under-Eye Bags

While puffiness doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem with your eye health or overall health, it’s still an annoyance. You may be wondering how to get rid of under-eye bags, dark circles, or any other cosmetic issues affecting your eyes.

Here’s what to do:

The first thing you need to do is to speak with your doctor.

Under-Eye Bags | Sight OriginsThis is so he or she can rule out any underlying conditions that might be contributing to dark circles or bags under your eyes. Once that happens, your doctor will probably refer you to a medical professional who specializes in eye health, such as an ocular surgeon or ophthalmologist.

Before you meet with any doctor, make a list of questions beforehand. For example, be sure to ask what is causing your symptoms, and whether your condition is temporary or chronic. You’ll also want to know your options when it comes to addressing the issue, whether or not the doctor recommends home remedies, and what kind of follow-up visits you’ll need to make.

The doctor will ask you questions as well. Some of the more common things a doctor will want to know will be when you first noticed puffiness, and whether the symptoms occur every once in a while, or all the time. Your doctor will also probably want to know if anything seems to either worsen your symptoms or improve them.

The Bottom Line

While you might not like the looks of under-eye bags, it’s important to know some of the reasons why they occur. Fluid retention, lifestyle choices like smoking and drinking, and genetics are just some of the possibilities. A doctor will let you know the safest, most effective methods of dealing with the issue.