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The area around the eyes is called the periorbital area and it is composed of very soft and loose connective tissue covered with a very thin layer of skin. Such tissue is very susceptible to swelling, which can be caused by many different factors. Here are some of the causes of swelling and other changes that can occur in the periorbital area.

Allergies

Allergens (substances causing allergies) are present in cosmetic products, food, and in the environment (pollen, dust mites, bee stings, etc.). In contact with an allergen, an inflammatory cascade reaction is started in the affected tissues, thus causing their swelling and itching. Swelling in the periorbital area can be caused by either topically applied or systemic allergens. The symptoms appear very shortly after the contact (minutes or rarely hours) and can be mild to very severe, causing complete closure of the eyelids as a result of an enlarged periorbital area. This eye closure is not particularly dangerous itself, but it is often accompanied by the swelling of other very important and vital structures of the head and neck, which can cause closure of the airways and sometimes death.

This can be prevented by avoiding the contact with the known allergen. The treatment includes antihistamine drugs and corticosteroids, either topical or systemic or a combination of both. In severe cases, adrenalin may be used to dilate the airways.

Irritation Of The Skin

Cosmetic products, cold air, overexposure to sunlight, and other factors can cause damage to the very thin and delicate skin of the periorbital region. Tissue damage initiates the inflammatory process which manifests as pain, swelling, and redness of the skin. In this case, exposure to the harmful agent should be stopped and the symptoms should gradually disappear.

Increased Salt Intake

As mentioned before, the loose tissue around the eyes is susceptible to swelling. The reason for that is the easy accumulation of salt in this region, which in turn gathers water molecules and creates swelling. Increased salt intake is advised against for other health-related reasons too, so it should be avoided. Treatment for this condition is not needed as it will spontaneously disappear with the normalization of salt intake.

Aging

With aging, different changes occur in all our organs. As the skin is more exposed to external factors, it is logically highly affected. The loose connective tissue in the periorbital region is rich in glycosaminoglycans such as hyaluronan which give this tissue its elasticity and softness. With aging, the concentration of hyaluronan decreases and its composition changes due to accumulation of genetic mutations, which results in a changed look of the periorbital region (puffy eyes, wrinkles, stretched skin, etc.). There are many cosmetic products today enriched with hyaluronan, and although their manufacturers claim they are effective, it is still questionable.

Lifestyle

The periorbital regions can become swollen due to bad lifestyle habits, such as alcohol overconsumption, junk food, overuse of makeup products, and overexposure to sunlight. Those are all factors that affect hydration, which is very important for maintaining the normal composition of the tissue.

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