Dark circles under the eyes

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Learn about what can cause dark circles under your child's eyes.

Key points

  • Common causes of dark circles under the eyes include nasal congestion from viruses, allergies and enlarged adenoids.
  • Dark circles in some children are from lack of sleep.
  • Depending on the cause of your child’s dark circles, many children do not require any treatment.
  • Dark circles can also run in some families and can be seen in children with uneven skin tone.

What causes dark circles under the eyes?

Dark circles under the eyes can be temporary or longstanding. Temporary causes are often related to lack of sleep or nasal congestion from a viral respiratory infection, sinusitis, enlarged adenoids or seasonal allergies. When your child’s nose is congested, the blood vessels around it (including those below the eyes) can become more swollen and more prominent. This makes the skin under the eyes look darker. Some children with eczema around their eyes or itchy, water eyes from allergies may rub their eyes often. These children often also have dark circles under their eyes and the dark circles can become chronic if the symptoms persist.

In children who are dehydrated (such as those with vomiting or diarrhea), the area around their eyes can become sunken. In some children this can also make the skin look darker.

If your child has always had dark circles under their eyes, this may be a family trait or related to uneven skin pigmentation.

Rarely, dark circles under the eyes can represent bruising. The cause of bruising under the eyes depends on whether there was a history of a head injury or if there is bruising or bleeding in other parts of your child’s body.

Treatment for dark circles under the eyes

The treatment for dark circles under the eyes depends on the cause. Children with symptoms of environmental or seasonal allergies may benefit from treatment with a non-drowsy over-the-counter antihistamine. Children with eczema under the eyes also benefit from treatment. Children with lack of sleep or a viral respiratory infection need rest and recuperation. Children with dark circles as a family trait or uneven skin tone do not need any treatment.

When to see a health-care provider

Bring your child to a health-care provider if:

  • You are concerned the dark circles are bruises
  • Your child’s allergies are not relieved by over-the-counter non-drowsy antihistamines
  • You are concerned your child has enlarged adenoids, especially if their sleep is disrupted
  • You are concerned your child is dehydrated and is not improving with oral fluids

Last updated: March 13th 2024