What are dark circles under the eyes?

Dark circles under the eyes, sometimes called shadows or dark rings under the eyes, are the appearance of dark skin between the lower eyelid and the top of the cheek. Dark circles under the eyes can occur in infants, children, adolescents and adults, and to men and women alike.

It is commonly assumed that dark circles under the eyes are caused by a lack of sleep, and poor quality sleep and insomnia can certainly cause this condition. However, a variety of other conditions can lead to dark circles under the eyes, some of which are related to lifestyle, such as drinking too much coffee or crying. Other causes are genetic or medically based, such as infection, head or facial trauma, or thin skin on the lower eyelids, which makes the underlying blue-colored veins more visible. Prominent skin darkening under the eyes can be a common normal feature in certain ethnic groups.

Depending on the cause, dark circles under the eyes can arise suddenly and disappear quickly, such as when you have a mild allergic reaction to animal dander or dust. Dark circles under the eyes that develop over time may be a sign of chronic dehydration or anemia.

Seek prompt medical care if you develop unexplained dark circles or discoloration under the eye or a dark circle appears under only one eye. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, develop a dark circle under one or both eyes after a facial or head injury, or other serious symptoms occur, such as passing out or a change in consciousness, change in vision, confusion, difficulty breathing, fever, or a bloody nose.


SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with dark circles under the eyes?

Dark circles under the eyes and other types of discoloration under the eyes may occur with other symptoms depending on the underlying condition including:

  • Anxiety, irritability, and fatigue due to poor quality sleep or insomnia
CAUSES

What causes dark circles under the eyes?

Dark circles under the eyes can be caused by a variety of conditions, including trauma, infection, inflammation, allergies, and lifestyle factors. Dark circles under the eyes and other types of discoloration are often caused by relatively minor conditions, such as fatigue and minor allergies, but may also result from mo... Read more about dark circles under eyescauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Eyes and Vision


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