What are dark circles ?
The appearance of dark rings or shadow around the eyes is called dark circles.
It can make a person look tired, exhausted and older. The skin around the eyes is thin and transparent. This makes any congestion or dilation in the blood vessels more readily visible through it. Dark circles are usually more noticeable in the mornings, as in the sleeping position, fluids tend to accumulate and the veins expand to hold more blood.
Apart from their unsightly appearance, the dark circles can sometimes indicate some serious health concerns. They can imply dietary deficiencies, allergies or severe fatigue. More often they are indicators of lack of water in the body.
What causes dark circles ?
It is commonly assumed that dark circles are caused due to lack of sleep; however a variety of other conditions can cause them.
Skin allergies – This is the most common cause of dark circles. The skin around the eyes is thin, delicate and prone to allergies. Cosmetics like eyeliners, kajal and eye shadows are the common allergens. People who suffer from hay fever may notice darkening around the eyes during acute attacks. Some food allergies can also cause the area under the eyes to appear dark. The person may develop an allergy to their own oil or sweat. In fact any condition that causes the eyes to itch can contribute to dark circles.
Pigmentation – Dark circles can be caused due to hyper pigmentation. The pigmentation can result from sun exposure, chronic eye-rubbing or oiliness of the skin. The pooling of oil and sweat in the natural skin pockets under the eyes can trigger pigmentation. On an oily skin these pigmented patches are typically seen around the eyes, nose corners and under the lower lip.
Genetic – Dark circles are often inherited and can appear in childhood. Some children eventually outgrow them but some don’t.
Ageing – Dark circles are likely to become more noticeable with age. As people get older, their skin loses collagen, the muscles which support the eyelids become weak and the skin become thinner and more translucent causing the lids to appear puffy.
Dark circles with puffy eyelids
Sinusitis – Sinus or nasal inflammation leads to venous congestion which in turn can dilate the blood vessels that drain from the area causing dark circles. Patients with venous congestion often complain of headaches or are found to be rubbing their eyes. In most of these cases, treating sinusitis or the allergy can reduce the dark circles by itself.
Lack of nutrients – Iron deficiency or lack of Vitamin C can cause dark circles. Many women with low hemoglobin levels find dark circles becoming more prominent during periods or during pregnancy. The iron deficiency can prevent the blood from carrying sufficient oxygen to eye tissues. Skipping meals, chronic illnesses like stomach or thyroid problems or sudden and severe weight loss can also result into dark circles. Identifying and fulfilling the deficiency can often reverse the dark circles.
Fluid retention – Fluids also may accumulate in the space below the eyes, adding to the swelling. This is seen with fluid retention in the body which may happen with pregnancy, weight gain or certain diseases. Excess salt in the diet can also cause fluid retention.
Fatigue, Stress and Sleep Deprivation – Adequate sleep and rest are very essential. Unfortunately with rising responsibilities of work and family, many people do not get adequate rest. Lack of sleep causes the blood vessels under the skin of the eye to dilate causing the typical sunken, hollow appearance around eyes.
A major part of skin repair and regeneration happens during sleep. It is in the sleep phase that the blood circulation focuses on the tissues and cells of the skin giving it a more rejuvenated appearance. Therefore one of the immediate consequences of lack of sleep is dark circles. On the other hand, oversleeping can also sometimes cause dark circles.
Medication – certain medications can cause blood vessels to dilate. Because the skin under the eyes is very delicate, any increased blood flow shows through the skin.
Lifestyle – Excessive smoking or drinking can cause dark circles. People who drink too much coffee may have difficulty getting enough sleep.
How can we prevent dark circles?
Most dark circles respond to simple measures. Invasive and aggressive measures can in fact worsen them. More than what to do, people with dark circles need to know what NOT TO DO.
1) Avoid rubbing eyes as it leads to breakage of fragile capillaries caused by skin trauma.
2) Don’t fall for unsolicited advice. People suffering from dark circles are often at the receiving end of free advice. Seek professional help.
3) Avoid massaging oil of any type around eyes.
4) Stop or minimize the usage of cosmetics around eyes.
5) In case of allergies, the sooner the allergen is found and exposure to the same is avoided, the faster the dark circles recover.
6) Maintain good hygiene; wash the area around the eyes at regular intervals.
7) Protect your face and eyes while being sun exposed.
8) Get more sleep and rest. Find methods to relax and de-stress.
9) Rule out medical causes like nasal congestion or anxiety and treat them appropriately.
10) Eat healthy and get your lifestyle organized.
11) Limit the intake of alcohol, tea and coffee.
How are dark circles treated?
Dark circles can be due to multiple causes and therefore the treatment will depend on the cause.
Dark circles at Dr. Health are treated using a 4 pronged approach.
External applications – dark circles caused b pigmentation are treated using skin lightening creams, packs and exfoliating agents.
Oral medication – Prescription anti-allergy and itch relief medication are used to treat dark circles due to allergies. Dark circles & puffy eyes caused due to engorged vessels are treated using decongestants. To improve thin and wrinkled skin in case of dark circles caused due to ageing, anti-ageing medications and anti-oxidants are used.
Skin care – includes advice on the products meant for cleansing, hydrating and for maintenance of tone and texture.
Dietary advice – consists of advice on healing foods and supplements in case of specific deficiencies.
In severe cases, procedures like chemical peels, lasers, dermaabrasion may be indicated.