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Dark Circles Under the Eyes

What causes dark circles under the eyes?

The most common cause of dark bluish circles under the eyes is congestion of the nose. The veins from the eyes drain into the veins of the nose. If the nose is blocked up, the veins around the eyes become larger and darker. To understand what's going on, we need to look at the nose.

These dark circles are sometimes called allergic shiners because nasal congestion is usually caused by nasal allergy or hay fever. Dark circles are also caused by chronic sinus infections, recurrent colds, or blockage of the nose by large adenoids. (If the dark circles are caused by large adenoids, your child probably breathes mostly through his mouth instead of his nose.) Dark circles under the eyes are especially noticeable in children with fair complexions.

Overall, dark circles under the eyes are not a sign of poor health or troubled sleep.

What is the treatment?

Treatment depends on the cause of the congestion.

See related topics for information about specific causes.

When should I call my child's health care provider?

Call during office hours if:

  • You don't know what is causing the dark circles under your child's eyes.
  • You have other questions or concerns.
Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2002-03-21
Last reviewed: 2006-03-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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