Bags under the eyes

Eye circles

Dark circles or Eye circles are dark blemishes around the eyes. Also known as "bags under the eyes," there are many etiologies to cause this symptom, such as lack of sleep, heredity, and bruising.



In most people the dark circles under our eyes are blood vessels that we can see through the skin. The skin around our eyelids (periorbital skin) is the thinnest skin in the body (around 0.5 mm thick compared with 2 mm in other areas). Like varicose veins, dark circles under the eyes are usually an inherited trait. When blood passes through the large veins close to the surface of the skin it can produce a bluish tint. The more transparent the skin -- also an inherited trait -- the darker the circles appear. In people with a deep-set bone structure, shadowing contributes to the dark color under the eyes.

Allergies, asthma, and eczema

Any condition that causes the eyes to itch can contribute to darker circles due to rubbing or scratching the skin around them. Hay fever sufferers particularly will notice under-eye "smudges" during the height of the allergy season. Some food allergies can also cause the area under the eyes to appear darker.


Any medications that cause blood vessels to dilate can cause circles under the eyes to darken. Because the skin under the eyes is very delicate, any increased blood flow shows through the skin.


The lack of nutrients in the diet, or the lack of a balanced diet, can contribute to the discoloration of the area under the eyes. It is believed that lack of mineral iron can cause dark circles as well. Iron deficiency is the most common type of anemia and this condition is a sign that not enough oxygen is getting to the body tissues.

The skin can also become more pale during pregnancy and menstruation (due to lack of iron), which again allow the underlying veins under the eyes to become more visible.


A lack of sleep or excessive tiredness can cause paleness of the skin, which again allows the blood underneath the skin to become more visible and appear more blue or darker.


Dark circles are likely to become more noticeable and permanent with age. This is because as people get older, skin loses collagen and it gets thinner, and more translucent.

Medical conditions

Another cause may be bad blood circulation. Cardio exercise increases blood circulation and may help the dark circles to disappear.

Dark eye circles could be a sign of excessive loss of water from the body (dehydration).

Periorbital hyperpigmentation is the official name for when there is more melanin produced around our eyes than usual, giving them a darker colour. We have two main layers of skin, the outer layer of skin (epidermis) and inner layer (dermis).When excess melanin is being made in the epidermis it appears brown, and when there is more than usual melanin in the dermis it looks blue or blue grey.


Although to date, there has been no end-all to curing or reducing dark circles, there are many home-made ingredients that can help make the dark circles less visible. For example it is said that putting teabags under the eyes, drinking plenty of fluids and a lot of rest can suffice. Make-up can be used to change the coloration of any exposed skin.

The Preparation H version with phenylephrine HCl 0.25% will constrict the capillaries resulting in the [temporary] reduction of the appearance of dark circles. The cream has less petrolatum than the ointment which is important to avoid the greasy appearance.

Other vasoconstrictors such as tetrahydrozoline hydrochloride as found in Visine may offer similar temporary results. Use should be limited in order to avoid a rebound effect.

One treatment is to massage almond oil with honey around the eyes before going to bed. This will lighten the skin around eyes and brighten it considerably. Also, try gentle massage around eyes while taking shower. The steam from the shower helps for effective massage. However, some say that the constant rubbing will only cause the circles under the eye to become worse, similar to the Hay fever described above.



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