Dark Circles Under the Eyes

What causes dark circles under the eyes?

The most common cause of dark bluish circles under the eyes is congestion of the nose. The veins from the eyes drain into the veins of the nose. If the nose is blocked up, the veins around the eyes become larger and darker. To understand what’s going on, we need to look at the nose.

These dark circles are sometimes called allergic shiners because nasal congestion is usually caused by nasal allergy or hay fever. Dark circles are also caused by chronic sinus infections, recurrent colds, or blockage of the nose by large adenoids. (If the dark circles are caused by large adenoids, your child probably breathes mostly through his mouth instead of his nose.)

In most cases, dark circles under the eyes are normal and run in families. Dark circles under the eyes are especially noticeable in children with fair complexions.

Most of the time, dark circles under the eyes are not a sign of poor health or troubled sleep. In very rare cases, they may be a sign of a more serious condition.

What is the treatment?

Treatment depends on the cause of the congestion.

When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?

Call during office hours if:

  • You don’t know what is causing the dark circles under your child’s eyes.
  • You have other questions or concerns.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-11-08
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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