Allergies Causing Dark Under Eye Circles

Allergic Shiners

Allergic shiners are caused by nasal congestion.
 Getty Images

Dark circles under the eyes related to nasal allergies are called allergic shiners. You may see them in the mirror during allergy season. You may also notice your child with these dark circles and suspect an allergy.

Allergic shiners are due to nasal congestion, which can occur for other reasons besides allergies, such as with the common cold or with sinus infections.

These dark circles under the eyes can make you look tired and "unhealthy." Learn why they happen and what you can do to reduce them.

How Dark Circles Form Under the Eyes From Allergies

When the nasal passages are congested, there is an increased amount of pressure in the nose. This pressure prevents the blood that supplies the superficial part of the face from draining back to the heart. This blood pools in the veins and capillaries underneath the eyes, causing a dark appearance, like a black eye. Some of the fluid from inside the veins can slowly seep into the tissue under the eyes, leading to puffiness of the tissue as well.

You see the pooled blood as a darker area because the skin is very thin just under the eyes. Such blood pooling elsewhere might only show puffiness.

How They Differ From Black Eyes

A black eye is a bruise caused by trauma. The blood seeps into the tissues from damaged blood vessels and the pigments are deposited in the tissues.

This pigmentation from a black eye changes over the course of several days, often going from red to black to blue to green to yellow. Allergic shiners do not have this blood seepage and so the appearance of dark circles should disappear once the nasal congestion is relieved and the blood flow can resume as normal.

Dark circles from allergies usually appear under both eyes rather than just one eye.

Causes of Allergic Shiners

Anything that triggers nasal congestion can give you dark circles under your eyes.

  • Outdoor allergens such as pollen that trigger hay fever or seasonal allergies
  • Indoor allergens including mold, dust mites, and pet dander
  • Food allergies
  • Irritation or allergy to cigarette smoke, scents, and chemicals
  • Upper respiratory infections such as colds, influenza, and sinusitis

Treatment

Avoid triggers for your allergies to reduce your symptoms. You can try over-the-counter allergy medications that reduce nasal congestion or use an allergy medication prescribed by your doctor.

You can also use self-care methods for relief including placing a cold compress under your eyes, being careful not to have direct contact with ice and damage the thin skin in that area. You can prop up your head with extra pillows at night to help the fluid drain better.

You can use a concealer to even out the color of your face to hide the dark circles while you are using other methods to get relief.

When to See the Doctor

If your allergies are restricting what you can do, see your doctor to get medication that will help you enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle.

You should also see your doctor if you have signs of infection such as a high fever, green nasal discharge, or sinus pain. If only one eye is affected and it is getting worse, you should see your doctor.

Sources:

Dark Circles Under Eyes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/dark-circles-under-eyes/basics/causes/sym-20050624.

Small P, Kim H. Allergic rhinitis. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology. 2011;7(Suppl 1). doi:10.1186/1710-1492-7-s1-s3.