Eyeing Those Dark Circles
Lack of sleep isn’t the only contributor to this common under-the-eyes condition.
By Dr. Rob for MSN Health & Fitness
Q: My 43-year-old daughter has constant dark, bluish circles under her eyes. What are some causes of this other than lack of sleep?
A: Dark circles under the eyes are pretty common, and the answer to your question may be as simple as looking at yourself in the mirror. Skin texture, tone and tint are passed on by genetics, just like hair and eye color.
So if you or her father has regularly appearing dark circles, chances are your daughter will too. However, heredity isn’t the only cause; allergies, illness, and even too much sunlight can add their mark. Fortunately, most times this cosmetic concern can be hidden or even reversed by cover-ups, treatments or lifestyle adjustments (skin masks, antihistamines, decreased sun exposure).
The skin under our eyelids is extremely thin. That is an important thing to remember in trying to soften those dark circles. The extremely thin skin has the potential to reflect the dark blue color of the circulating blood in the soft tissues below its surface. While the length of time and the degree of tint has a lot to do with the genetics and structure of the skin and veins in that area, there are other factors that play an important role. These various factors include (but aren’t limited to):
Sun exposure, which triggers the skin pigment melanin to increase, resulting in a darker appearance.
Allergies that may cause itching or rubbing around the eyes or lids. This causes the fragile blood vessels to dilate or bruise, leading to that dark appearance under the eyes known as “allergic shiners.” This is especially noticeable in those with seasonal allergies, such as hay fever.
Colds or sinus infections, which can lead to an increased pressure on the blood vessels under the eyes, leading to a temporary dark circle appearance.
Heavy or improperly fitted eyeglasses can put added pressure on the veins and capillaries under the eyes, leading to a bruising or dilation of the blood vessels, resulting in a dark blue appearance.
Bone structure. Deep set eyes and a prominent forehead may create a shadowing effect and the illusion of dark circles.
Menstruation and pregnancy. The hormonal changes may cause the facial skin to appear pale, leaving the darker pigments of the circulating blood in the veins under the eyes to stand out.
Poor nutrition and sudden weight loss can lead to sagging and thinning of the skin under the eyes, causing that “sunken” and darkened look.
Increased fluid retention from too much salt, or from medical conditions such as liver or kidney disease or heart failure.
Even sleeping on your stomach can lead to a puffiness and fluid accumulation under the bottom eyelids, causing a temporary appearance of dark circles.
Certain medicines, particularly blood pressure medications, can cause the blood vessels to expand and dilate. While this increased blood flow usually is not apparent in other areas, it can cause a visible tint below the very thin skin under the eyes.
Lack of sleep can lead to a pale appearance of the facial skin, thus highlighting the darker area under the eyes.
Aging. As we get older, the skin gets thinner and the muscles that hold the upper and lower eyelids and their surrounding fat pads in place tend to lose tone. This may result in a sagging and darker appearance around the eyes.
The treatment of the dark circles depends upon the suspected cause. For instance, if they seem to appear upon awakening and last through part of the day, it may be due to sleep position. In this case laying on the back with the head elevated may keep the fluid from accumulating under the eyes. If the cause is from constant rubbing due to the itching caused by allergies, an antihistamine may decrease the problem. And, if the dark circles are due to heredity or age, creams or make-up may be needed to mask the area. There are many home remedies (cucumbers, almond paste, used and refrigerated tea bags) that have shown various levels of success in relieving the appearance of these circles.
While the cause more often is due to cosmetic rather than medical concerns, your daughter should get a full exam by her health care professional. She may be referred to a skin-care specialist. These professionals can do wonders in reversing the tired, sickly and aging look of those dark circle
GUY D. BREAU