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Worried About Your Child’s Dark Circles?

January 26, 2021 • Our Blog • Sleep
It can be unsettling to see your child develop dark circles. Luckily, they’re usually nothing to worry about.  It’s natural to be worried if your normally bright-eyed child suddenly develops dark circles around their eyes. You know that dark circles are common in adults, but is it normal for kids to get them? Your mind may start racing to any number of possible causes, from lack of sleep, to stress, to too much time in front of their screens.  While it is certainly less common for children to develop dark circles than for adults, there’s no need for alarm. In the vast majority of cases, the causes of these “raccoon eyes” aren’t serious and can be addressed easily. Find out what might be causing your child’s dark circles below to help determine when it’s time to see a doctor. 

Why Do Dark Circles Form?

Dark circles usually form when the delicate skin under your eyes thins, exposing the purple and blue veins that rest just below it. The color of the exposed blood vessels is what gives under-eyes their dark look. Dark circles can be permanent, or they can just appear for a little while. In children they are typically just temporary.

Possible Causes of Your Child’s Dark Circles and How to Address Them

While fatigue and aging are the most common causes of dark circles in adults, these aren’t usually the cause of dark circles in children. Possible causes include:   
  • Genetics: If dark circles are common in your family, your child may develop them for hereditary reasons. The best way to keep them from appearing darker is for your child to avoid rubbing their eyes. Fortunately, these are typically not linked with any health conditions.
  • Lack of Sleep: As with adults, lack of sleep in children can lead to dark circles. Whether it’s because your child has gotten really into a new book or because they’re watching YouTube videos under the covers, too little sleep can be giving them raccoon eyes. The best way to address this cause is to make sure your child is getting enough sleep on a normal schedule.
  • Congestion: The blood vessels in your nose are connected to the veins around the eyes. That means that if your nose gets stuffed up or blocked, it can also block the veins around your eyes, making them get larger. That can lead to dark circles. Common health conditions and illnesses that can lead to congestion in kids are allergies, colds, the flu, ear infections, and sinus infections. With any of these, treating the underlying condition causing congestion will lead to the disappearance of the dark circles.
  • Anemia: If your child isn’t getting all the vitamins and minerals they need from their food — especially iron — they can develop anemia, which can lead to dark circles. To address this, you should try encouraging your child to eat more iron-rich foods, or you can give them an iron supplement. If your child is still looking pale with dark circles, you should see a doctor.
  • Dehydration: When you aren’t hydrated, your skin appears thinner. Drinking more water can make your child’s skin plumper and remove dark circles.
  • Cancer: In very rare cases, dark circles can be a sign of a more serious condition. A rare kind of cancer or tumor that occurs in children is called neuroblastoma. One symptom of this cancer can be dark circles under the eyes. However, if your child has neuroblastoma, the dark circles will be accompanied by other more serious and more telling symptoms.

When to See a Doctor

When your young child suddenly develops dark circles under their eyes, it’s natural to want to see a doctor to figure out what’s wrong. While the causes of dark circles don’t require medical intervention in the vast majority of cases, it’s a good idea to see a specialist if the interventions discussed above don’t seem to be helping.  At Kids’ Health, our doctors can help determine the underlying cause of your child’s dark circles and create a care plan to address it. A leading pediatric clinic serving the Beverly, Massachusetts, area, Kids’ Health takes a comprehensive approach to healthcare to help your kids feel their best. Call us or reach out online to schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment today....