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Dark circles under the eyes

It is often thought that lack of sleep is responsible for dark circles under the eyes, but there are other factors that may be responsible. Dark circles may be considered cosmetically unappealing, but they are rarely a medical concern.

Dark circles under the eyes are common in both men and women, and sometimes in children too. Having dark circles under the eyes may simply be a genetic condition, with people from an Asian or African background sometimes having more pigment around the eyes. 'Periorbital hyperchromia' – a technical name for dark circles under the eyes – refers to the area around the eye socket and excessive pigmentation, one of the most common reasons for circles under the eyes.

Are there other reasons for dark circles under the eyes?

There are other factors that can contribute to the appearance of dark circles under the eyes, including:

Ageing: As people age, their skin becomes thinner due to a reduction of fat and collagen, making the blood vessels beneath it more noticeable, which thereby makes the area under the eyes appear darker. In addition, as skin sags from ageing, baggy lower eyelids may cast a shadow on the skin below, creating the appearance of dark circles under the eyes.

Allergies: People with allergies may rub their eyes due to itchiness, leading to the formation of dark circles; dark circles may be more prominent during hay fever season in people who experience hay fever. An over-the-counter antihistamine tablet may help relieve hay fever symptoms – and therefore prevent or reduce dark circles.

Nasal congestion: A stuffed-up nose can lead to swelling of the blood vessels near your eyes and nose, causing the skin to appear darker.

Dehydration: Not having enough fluids in the body can shrink skin cells, making dark circles more noticeable. Simply drinking water can bring about a marked reduction in the circles.

Stress/lack of sleep: Chronic stress can make getting a good night's sleep more difficult, which can make the skin appear more pale and the eyes more sunken, both of which can make dark circles more noticeable.

Exposure to the sun: Sunlight can prompt the production of melanin, darkening the area around the eyes. Sunscreen developed for use on the face can help reduce the likelihood of this occurring, but take care to keep it out of the eyes.

Drinking alcohol: The consumption of alcohol allows the small blood vessels in the skin to dilate, or expand, so dark circles under the eyes may become more prominent.

Pregnancy: Changes in hormone levels due to pregnancy can also dilate the small blood vessels, making dark circles under the eyes more visible.

Anaemia: An iron deficiency, whether due to a poor diet, heavy periods or from an undiagnosed condition such as coeliac disease, affects the circulation of the blood and can lead to dark circles under the eyes.

Smoking cigarettes: Whether you smoke traditional or the smokeless cigarettes, they increase the appearance of dark circles under the eyes.

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