What Are the Common Causes of Severe Dark Circles?

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  • Written By: N. Swensson
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 14 June 2019
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Severe dark circles under the eyes usually affect adults and are concerning to some people because they can make them look older. One of the most common causes is fatigue, and a few good nights of rest may be all that is needed to alleviate the problem. For others, underlying problems such as allergies, sinus congestion, and eczema may contribute to dark circles and puffiness in the eye area. The natural aging process, which causes loss of fat and collagen in the skin, can also make severe dark circles appear more pronounced. Although discoloration around the eye area is usually not a sign of serious illness, seeking medical treatment may sometimes be a good idea, such as when the dark spots appear under only one eye or are accompanied by severe swelling, pain, or discharge from the eye.


Getting too little sleep may not be a direct cause of severe dark circles under the eyes, but it can make an existing problem worse because people who don’t get enough rest may have a hollow appearance and sagging skin around the eyes. If a temporary stressful or busy situation is to blame, using a good-quality under-eye concealer may be enough to hide the problem until things calm down and the person can get more sleep. A person who notices that his or her appearance is being affected by a chronic lack of sleep may need to identify and address the underlying reason, whether it is ongoing stress and anxiety, a medical condition, or environmental disturbance. Sometimes lifestyle changes, such as limiting caffeine and adopting a regular exercise program, can also help people to sleep better and in turn have a more healthy appearance.

Severe dark circles under the eyes can sometimes be caused by a person’s health conditions. He or she may be aware of these problems but not realize that they affect the eye area. Allergies and eczema can accentuate the appearance of dark patches if they cause swelling or itching. Continuously rubbing and scratching the eyes due to an allergy may also further irritate the eyes. Some seasonal allergy sufferers may only need an over-the-counter medication to help with these symptoms during times of the year when they are affected the most. Others who have other types of allergies or eczema may need to take a daily medication or use eye drops on a regular basis and may want to see a doctor or allergist for treatment advice.

When the natural aging process takes its toll and causes severe dark circles under the eyes, an easy fix may not be available. There are a wide variety of creams, lotions, and other skin treatments that promise to reverse signs of aging, and some may be successful in reducing the appearance of darkness in the eye area. Visiting a dermatologist can also be a good way to learn more about what is causing an individual skin problem and how to treat it.



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