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Ask Dr. Marla: My daughter has dark circles under her eyes

Parents CanadaQuestion:

My daughter has dark circles under her eyes, but she gets enough sleep. Is there another reason for this?


circles under the eye may be present due to a combination of factors
and have nothing to do with sleep  at all! Factors such as thin skin,
pigmentation secondary to the sun, and sometimes the presence of
extensive blood vessels called the venous plexus in the orbital area,
can contribute to this pigmentation. There could also be hereditary
factors – we see it in families sometimes.

However, one of the
most common causes of these dark circles seen under the eye is something
called an allergic shiner. Allergic shiners look like a bruise caused
by a blunt trauma. In the case of a bruise, the capillaries or the veins
are broken, the blood leaks out and makes the area around the eyes look
dark in colour.

Allergic shiners, on the other hand, are caused
by nasal passage or sinus congestion. This kind of congestion can make
it harder for the venous blood to flow back to the heart. This causes
venous congestion – a collection of some of the returning blood – under
the eyes. In addition, the small veins under the eyes may become
enlarged producing a bluish black colour.

Unlike a bruise, there
is no actual blood that has leaked into the tissue. A small amount of
blood is pooling and because this pooling is so close to the surface of
the skin, it appears as a dark circle.

Typically these shiners
appear in children with allergies and other allergy symptoms such as
runny nose and sinus congestion, itchy eyes and so on. While there is no
good treatment for the allergic shiners themselves, it is important to
address the underlying allergy symptoms. As always, it is best to
discuss this with your doctor.

Originally published in ParentsCanada, May/June 2012

Photo by iStockphoto

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