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Circles under the eyes are a very common phenomenon and can quickly become an aesthetic problem for those affected. Because the shadows are usually associated with fatigue, exhaustion and lack of water. Often, however, it also affects people who have enough sleep and drink lots of fluids. So what are the causes of dark circles? And how can they be fought? In this article, we show how shadows are created and what effective remedies are there.
"Oh, did you sleep too little?" "You have rings under your eyes, are you not feeling well?" Questions like these are familiar to many people, because shadows are widespread. If the dark discoloration were to appear in another, less visible place on the body (e.g. as a bruise on the thigh), there would probably be far less thought, talk and writing about it. However, the dark circles called "haloned eyes" are visible to everyone and can usually not be completely covered even with the best make-up.
Depending on the cause, the dark skin changes under the eyes appear purple, bluish, gray, brown or even black. The discoloration is usually sharply limited, but in some cases it also changes smoothly into the normal skin color.
In addition, dry eyes, swelling of the eyes, reddening of the eyes and increased sensitivity in the area of the eyes are also described.
Whether symptoms like depression, sleep disorders, inner restlessness or chronic fatigue are related to the appearance of dark circles is discussed.
First and foremost, it is the aesthetic component of rings under the eyes that causes problems for many sufferers. Constantly addressing the most common causes, such as lack of sleep, lack of fluids or iron deficiency, can cause irritation and bad mood in people with shadows under the eyes.
Causes of wrinkles under the eyes
The skin below the eyes is particularly thin in humans, without subcutis with fat tissue. As a result, changes under the skin such as lymphedema or vascular congestion are very quickly visible. The reasons for this seem to be very individual and partly also a multifactorial event.
From a medical point of view, stress, lack of fluids and lack of sleep, alcohol, nicotine and drug consumption are considered possible causes. Eye strain, e.g. from working on the PC monitor for hours or watching TV for hours, quickly leads to tired, dry and irritated eyes and favors the development of dark skin discoloration.
Various diseases (e.g. kidney, heart or liver diseases) that lead to fluid retention (edema) are also possible. From an expert's point of view, excessive pigment storage in the skin (hyperpigmentation), strong UV radiation (e.g. from extensive sunbathing or solarium) or foods and dishes with a high salt content may also be the reason.
Some of the dark shadows can also be innate. Dark circles can appear as a result of inflammation such as conjunctivitis. People often suffer from allergies such as Pollen allergy and hay fever as well as patients with neurodermatitis under dark shadows.
Dark circles due to deficiency symptoms
Another possible reason for the skin discoloration can be a deficiency symptom. An insufficient supply of the trace element iron, which primarily secures the oxygen supply of humans and is therefore indispensable for the human body, has to be thought of above all. Significant iron deficiency can be caused by major blood losses, e.g. due to accidents, operations, heavy menstruation or inflammatory bowel disease.
Likewise, an undersupply quickly arises during pregnancy and lactation due to an increased iron requirement. Vegetarians are often affected because the iron from plant-based foods is poorly absorbed by the intestine. Athletes also have an increased iron requirement due to the increased energy and oxygen turnover and increased sweating. Certain medications can interfere with the absorption of the trace element. These include gastric deacidifying agents (antacids) and medicines for lowering cholesterol (statins).
An undersupply of vitamin C or zinc can also be noticed in the form of dark shadows. Especially if the skin changes appear for the first time and for no apparent reason, the general practitioner should be consulted promptly. The latter can draw up an appropriate blood count in order to be able to reliably detect or rule out a possible vitamin and / or nutrient deficiency.
Cause of dark circles in children
If children have dark edges under their eyes, lack of sleep is usually assumed to be the cause. In fact, this is rarely the case, instead the skin discoloration usually shows up as part of an allergy or cold with a runny nose or nasal congestion. This is because pent-up nasal secretions or inflammation in the nasal passage lead to an expansion of the veins in the area of the eyes, causing them to shimmer darker than usual through the thin skin.
Dark circles in children can be inherited or indicate a lack of fluid. This can e.g. due to diarrhea or gastrointestinal flu occur relatively quickly because children have less fluid reserves than adults. In addition, undersupply of vitamins and / or nutrients such as iron or zinc is of course also conceivable for children. In order to clarify the reason for the shadows under the eyes, you should always have your child checked thoroughly by your pediatrician first.
When to the doctor?
In most cases, the shadows under the eyes have no serious causes. In particular, people who often have dark circles but no other symptoms usually do not need to worry. Because in this case the discoloration is usually hereditary and has no disease value. It is also not unusual for shadows to appear after a short night, during stress or as a result of alcohol consumption. Here the tired eyes usually disappear quickly as soon as sufficient sleep, relaxation etc. is ensured.
It is different if the dark edges suddenly appear and persist longer, especially if you are not otherwise susceptible to them. Then, as a precaution, the observations should be described to a doctor in order to clarify the cause of the skin changes. This is particularly important if there are other symptoms such as fever, dizziness, pain, nausea, or chronic fatigue. Because here the dark circles can be related to a (serious) illness and should therefore be taken seriously in any case.
What helps against dark eye shadows?
Unfortunately there is no panacea for the unpleasant discoloration. Instead, it depends on the cause which measures can be used effectively against the eye shadow.
Since in many cases overexertion and lack of sleep are responsible for the skin changes, care should first be taken to sleep more (seven to eight hours) and absorb more fluids. In order to prevent dark circles from drying out, it is important to drink at least one and a half to two liters a day.
It is helpful to cool the eyes and to provide the sensitive skin around them with a moisturizing care product (cream, gel or similar). Eat a healthy, balanced diet and avoid nicotine and alcohol. If there is a deficiency in certain vitamins and / or minerals, this should be compensated for and avoided in the future.
Numerous whitening creams are available on the market, which are said to reduce eye shadows. But the effect is usually much weaker than expected. In addition, the products are usually used over a longer period of time and have to be repeated regularly, which quickly turns the whole thing into expensive fun.
Tips for concealing dark circles
If you have dark circles under your eyes, you will quickly make a sleepy and sickly impression on others. But there are various first aid measures to conceal them somewhat. First the area around the eyes should e.g. be refreshed a little with cold water so that the blood vessels contract and shimmer less intensely through the skin.
The skin discoloration can then be covered with a special cream. The so-called "concealer" ("concealer" = cover, hide) should be about one to two tones lighter than the actual skin tone, because this balances the dark areas and the face appears fresher again. Take a small amount of the cream or concealer and gently tap the concealer under your eyes with your finger.
If the shadows are very dark, a concealer is often not enough. In this case, a so-called "corrector" can help, which is applied under the cover cream and neutralizes the discoloration. Accordingly, it must be selected to match the respective color of the dark circles: if they are bluish, a pink corrector is required. If the edges are brownish to purple, you should use yellow or orange. Redness is most effectively covered with green.
Medical treatment options
If cosmetics and home remedies for dark circles are insufficient, medical treatment can be considered. Depending on the cause of the dark shadows, different methods are used here. If the skin under the eyes is not only darkly discolored, but also sunken, e.g. an injection with hyaluronic acid. This is a body's own filler, which plumps up the skin from the inside. As a result, the skin layer becomes thicker, the blood vessels shine through less and the dark circles are less visible.
Alternatively, the “padding” can be achieved with your own fat. This is removed from the buttocks or thighs and processed in a special way. Then it is injected under the skin in the eye area to give it more volume.
Naturopathy and dark circles
Alternative medicine offers a range of proven means and procedures that are used effectively against dark shadows. It can be helpful, for example, to soak cotton pads with cold milk or fresh fig juice and put them on your closed eyes for about ten minutes.
A regular morning and evening massage with almond oil helps to promote blood circulation to the eyes. Since the skin is particularly sensitive here, you should be particularly gentle.
In order to support the blood circulation, you should generally go as much as possible into the fresh air. This is particularly important if the eyes are under constant heavy strain (e.g. through hours of PC work) and the muscles in this area have to be supplied with more oxygen.
A well-known and very effective home remedy for dark circles and swelling are teaspoons, which are placed in the freezer for a moment and then pressed on the closed eyes. Because the cold stimulus leads to the fact that the vessels contract and the blood circulation is promoted. Danger: In order not to risk cold burns, the spoons must not be too cold. Bring the same effect e.g. also cold compresses or ice cubes.
Another proven method is to put on cucumber slices or quark compresses. So-called Schüssler salts are often used in the naturopathic treatment of dark circles. Depending on the shape and color of the shadows, salt 1 (calcium fluoratum) or salt 5 (potassium phosphoricum) can be used. An experienced naturopath or naturopath doctor can help you choose the right remedy and inform you about the right intake. (tf, jvs, nr)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dipl. Social Science Nina Reese, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
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- Annette Heuwinkel-Otter; Anke Nuemann-Dulke; Norbert Matscheko: Nursing diagnoses for the coat pocket, Springer, 2011