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Genes, Environmental Factors May Be Responsible For 'Eye Bags', Study Suggests

Update Date: Nov 28, 2016 10:10 AM EST

While dark circles can be due to a bad night's sleep, "bags" under your eyes have little to do with tiredness and fatigue. According to a study conducted on this subject, researchers found that these dark, purplish eye bags are because of genetic as well as environment factors. Though both these elements are contributing factors, "genetics is the biggest culprit", Dr. Carol Clinton, a skin-care specialist at Timeless Skin Solutions in Dublin, Ohio said, according to a report by Live Science.

Researchers note that these bags are more evident in people with lighter, pale or thin skin. When people are stressed or tired, blood circulation in the eye area tends to slow, which allows blood to pool there. This accumulation of blood is more evident in people with fair skin.

Additionally, some people are genetically prone to subluxation, which is the movement of fat from underneath the eyeball to the front of the eye. Clinton pointed out that subluxation is not a result of lack of sleep but a genetic predisposition.

The environmental factors that cause puffy eye bags are the ones that cause allergies. These allergies cause capillaries to leak. When people have allergies, the allergens force the body to release immune proteins called histamines. These proteins cause blood vessels around the eyes to swell up.

Extensive exposure to the sun also damages the skin, making these puffy eyes bags more visible. According to a Mayo Clinic report, eating salty foods can cause the body to retain more water, resulting in eye bags. Apart from this, rubbing the eyes roughly can cause eye bags as it stimulates capillaries that are already prone to leaking.

Gravity is another environmental factor that causes eye bags. People tend to lose collagen and elastin as they age. As the bones on their face lose volume, everything just hangs" off of the face, causing eye bags, Clinton pointed out.

Previous studies have shown that the fat deposits around the eyes protect them. However, as people age, this fat escapes from the membrane and occupies new space under the skin. This misplacement of fat results in eye puffiness. However, a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2008 debunks this theory. According to the 2008 study, rather than the membrane weakening with age, the amount of fat beneath the eyes actually increases to cause baggy lower eyelids.

In another report, Ryan Nakamura, O.D., a VSP doctor at Natomas Optometry in Sacramento, CA suggests the following tips for dealing with eye bags:

  • Use a bag of ice or cold compress to reduce the swelling
  • Elevate the head while sleeping
  • Take two green tea bags. Brew them and then let them cool. Put them over the eyes for 10 minutes. This promotes circulation and reduces the swelling
  • Avoid food and beverages such as white sugar, fried foods, white flour, salt, alcohol, and sugar. These items encourage fluid retention.

"If your eye bags persist for longer than a week or rapidly get worse, consult your health care provider because this could be a sign of a more significant underlying medical issue," Dr. Nakamura suggest.

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