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Dark circles under eyes

Definition

Dark circles under your eyes generally implies that the darkening is primarily below both eyes. This is different from bruising caused by trauma or redness and swelling caused by infection around only one eye.

Causes

Fatigue is the most common cause of dark circles under your eyes. Sometimes, what appear to be dark circles under your eyes may merely be shadows cast by puffy eyelids or hollows under your eyes that develop as a normal part of aging.

Some of the most common causes of true under-eye circles are:

  • Allergies
  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Fatigue
  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  • Heredity — dark under-eye circles can run in families
  • Pigmentation irregularities — these are a particular concern for people of color, especially blacks and Asians
  • Rubbing or scratching your eyes
  • Sun exposure, which prompts your body to produce more melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color
  • Thinning skin and loss of fat and collagen — common as you age — can make the reddish-blue blood vessels under your eyes more obvious

When to see a doctor

If discoloration and swelling appear under just one eye and seem to get worse over time, talk to your primary care doctor. If you want a more lasting solution than concealers and over-the-counter creams can provide, see a dermatologist for advice.

Depending on what's causing the circles under your eyes, your doctor may recommend prescription creams or a combination of treatments to erase or reduce discoloration. Laser therapy or chemical peels can be helpful in some cases. Hollows that cause shadows can be smoothed with injectable fillers, and surgery can eliminate puffy lids.

Dark under-eye circles usually aren't a medical problem, and home remedies for dark circles under your eyes may be all you need to help manage this condition.

Self-care

Mild to moderate dark circles often respond well to simple and inexpensive treatments, such as:

  • Cold. Dilated under-eye blood vessels may contribute to dark circles under your eyes. Try holding a cold compress, a chilled teaspoon or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a soft cloth against the area to make these vessels constrict.
  • Extra pillows. Elevate your head with two or more pillows to prevent puffiness that develops when fluid pools in your lower eyelids.
  • Extra sleep. Although short nights don't usually cause under-eye circles, a lack of sleep may make you paler, so shadows and circles you already have become more obvious.

Last updated: October 13th, 2016

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