Fat’s to blame for baggy eyes

By Ann Griswold • Published: December 19th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Getting older isn’t often a pretty process: Each glance into the mirror seems to reveal something droopier and baggier than before. For many people, the eyes often hold the first visible cues of aging… laugh lines, crows feet and baggy lower lids sent more than two-hundred-forty-thousand Americans clamoring for facelifts last year, making the eyelids one of the top five sites for cosmetic surgery in 2007.

Scientists have long wondered why the lower eyelid sags with age. One theory is that a ligament responsible for holding fat in place around the eye socket weakens with age, allowing existing fat to leak out and form pockets beneath the eyes. Now a new study shows that the accumulation of new fat, rather than a weakened ligament, is the main culprit behind baggy eyes.

Researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles studied forty people who ranged in age from twelve to eighty. The scientists performed magnetic resonance imaging, or M-R-I scans, of each person’s face, paying special attention to their lower eyelids. The results revealed that fatty tissue accumulates around the eyes as we age. The fat expands into pockets beneath our eyes, contributing to the baggy appearance common among many older people.

The authors hope their findings will change the way cosmetic surgeons repair baggy eyes. Rather than tightening ligaments around the eyes, turning back time might be as simple as removing a little extra fat.