Read below about sunken eyes, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your sunken eyes from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

This symptom can also be referred to as:
Bags under eyes
Deep set eyes

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Sunken Eyes Symptoms

The appearance of sunken eyes has a broad range of possible causes. Some nonmedical causes include sun exposure, aging, smoking, or lack of sleep. Some medical causes include dehydration or weight loss, both of which could be due to a serious underlying medical condition. Some causes of sunken eyes may be addressed at home with lifestyle changes like improving sleep, nutrition, and skin care. Other causes require evaluation by a doctor. In particular, patients with unintended rapid weight loss should be evaluated by a doctor. Patients who are severely dehydrated or cannot eat or drink should seek emergency treatment.

Symptoms that can be associated with sunken eyes include:

Sunken Eyes Causes Overview

There are many conditions, both medical and non-medical, that might lead to the appearance of sunken eyes. Aging, sun exposure, cigarette smoking, poor sleep, or simple genetics might be an explanation for the appearance of sunken eyes. However, dehydration due to a variety or causes or weight loss due to a variety of causes can also lead to the appearance of sunken eyes. Rapid weight loss, especially if unintended, may be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition. Finally, allergies or infections in the upper respiratory tract or sinuses can lead to irritation and the appearance of sunken eyes.

General causes:

  • Age: With aging, skin becomes thinner and bone density and fat decrease in the body, including the face. This can lead to the appearance of sunken eyes.
  • Exposures: Sun exposure can lead to pigmentation (darkening) of the skin on the face, including under the eyes. Cigarette smoking causes skin to lose collagen and can lead to the appearance of sunken eyes.
  • Genetics: Some people may be born with the appearance of sunken eyes.
  • Sleep: Poor quality or insufficient sleep is common and can affect the way people look. Often, people who are sleep deprived appear to have darker circles under their eyes.

Dehydration and weight loss causes:

  • Dehydration: There are many causes of dehydration, including poor oral intake, vomiting or diarrhea. Dehydration can lead to the appearance of sunken eyes.
  • Weight Loss: Significant weight loss, especially if unintended, can be a sign of a more serious medical condition. Some of the biggest causes of unintended weight loss include chronic infection, cancer, or poor diet. Weight loss in the face can lead to the appearance of sunken eyes.
  • Psychiatric Conditions: Some psychiatric conditions, including depression, eating disorders, or drug and alcohol addiction can lead to weight loss and present with sunken eyes.
  • Malnutrition: Poor diet can lead to weight loss at any age. In the United States, this is probably most common in alcoholics or elderly people. Malnourished people may appear to have sunken eyes or temples.

Allergies or infections:

  • Allergies: Allergies from environmental irritants like dust, pollen, or smoke can cause an allergic reaction that may lead to a sunken appearance of the eyes. Other symptoms include itchy, watery eyes.
  • Infections: Infections in the sinuses or upper respiratory tract may lead to congestion, which could be accompanied by appearance of sunken eyes.

2 Potential Sunken Eyes Causes

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

  1. 1.Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

    Eczema is a form of skin inflammation that causes skin to be dry, itchy, red, and irritated.

    This is a long-term, recurring condition but symptoms are manageable with care.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    trouble sleeping, feeling itchy or tingling all over, dry skin, scalp itchiness, flexor surface rash
    Symptoms that never occur with eczema (atopic dermatitis):
    fever
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit

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  2. 2.Normal Episode of Itchy Skin

    Itchiness is an unpleasant feeling that makes you want to scratch. It is found as a part of many diagnoses, but it can also appear on its own without a particular cause, which is the case in this diagnosis.

    This should get better on its own relatively quickly

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    feeling itchy or tingling all over
    Symptoms that always occur with normal episode of itchy skin:
    feeling itchy or tingling all over
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

Sunken Eyes Treatments and Relief

Some causes of sunken eyes can be addressed at home with lifestyle changes including improving sleep, ensuring skin is protected from the sun, and ensuring proper hydration and nutrition. However, other causes of sunken eyes should be evaluated and treated by a doctor. Severe dehydration or the inability to eat or drink should prompt emergency evaluation. Rapid unintended weight loss also warrants medical attention sooner rather than later. Doctors might use medications, order blood tests or imaging or refer to specialists.

Seek emergency treatment if:

  • You have severe dehydration or are unable to keep down water or food.

Seek medical treatment soon if:

  • You have significant unintended weight loss. This may be the sign of a serious underlying medical condition.

Home sunken eyes treatments include:

  • Sun Protection : Using SPF and protecting the face with a hat are ways to avoid sun exposure, which can contribute to skin damage and the appearance of sunken eyes.
  • Hydration : Drinking more water / fluids may help with the appearance of sunken eyes if the cause is dehydration.
  • Nutrition : If sunken eyes are due to lack of appropriate nutrition, changing your diet may help. However, most cases of weight loss or malnutrition should be evaluated by a doctor.
  • Proper Sleep : If the appearance of sunken eyes is due to lack of sleep, improving sleep quantity and quality may help. In general, aim for eight hours of sleep each night.

Medical professional sunken eyes treatments include:

  • Fluids : If dehydration is the cause of the appearance of sunken eyes, and doctor might give fluids intravenously to rehydrate.
  • Blood Tests : If a doctor suspects malnutrition or another underlying medical condition, they may order a variety of blood tests to help identify the cause of sunken eyes.
  • Medications : If the cause of sunken eyes is due to allergies or infection, a doctor might prescribe medications to treat the cause.
  • Psychiatric Evaluation : If a doctor is concerned about depression, eating disorders, or another psychiatric cause of weight loss leading to the appearance of sunken eyes, they may suggest a psychiatric evaluation.
  • Imaging : If a doctor is concerned about rapid weight loss as the cause of sunken eyes, they might order imaging like an x-ray or CT scan to look for possible medical conditions leading to weight loss including cancer.
  • Dermatology : If the appearance of sunken eyes is due to aging or sun exposure, a doctor might refer you to a dermatologist who can make recommendations about the best way to take care of aging skin.

FAQs About Sunken Eyes

Here are some frequently asked questions about sunken eyes.

Are sunken eyes hereditary?

While not all dark skin around the eyes is hereditary, there is a hereditary type of dark circle under the eye. It is called periorbital hyperpigmentation or idiopathic cutaneous hyperchromia of the orbital region. There is no known treatment and the condition is only cosmetic.

Can dehydration cause sunken eyes?

Yes, dehydration can cause sunken eyes. It can cause a gaunt appearance and even dark circles under the eyes. However, clinicians do not use dark circles under the eyes to determine dehydration in a physical exam. A more reliable exam is looking at the skin and mucosal membranes such as the mouth.

Why does my toddler have sunken eyes?

In small children, sunken eyes are a sign of both malnutrition and dehydration, but only if the dehydration is recent. Otherwise, they may be due to a different condition altogether. Other signs of dehydration in children with sunken eyes include fatigue, decreased urine output or dry mouth.

Do allergies lead to sunken eyes?

Yes, allergies can lead to sunken eyes and dark circles under the eyes. An allergic reaction to pollen or some airborne allergen can cause a gaunt appearance, similar to an individual with a viral infection like a common cold or the flu. The difference will be found in the absence of flu or cold-like symptoms.

Why does lack of sleep cause sunken eyes?

Lack of sleep can cause sunken eyes or dark circles under the eyes. When you are low on sleep, your body functions on cortisol, a stress hormone. This causes certain blood vessels to engorge throughout the body. The skin just under your eyes is thin and the engorgement can cause that skin to look much darker since blood vessels can be seen more easily through this thin layer of skin.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Sunken Eyes

  • Q.Have you experienced any nausea?
  • Q.Is your heart beating more quickly or slowly than usual?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Do you have a rash?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our sunken eyes symptom checker to find out more.

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Sunken Eyes Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced sunken eyes have also experienced:

    • 12% Snoring Sounds While Awake
    • 12% Difficulty Feeding
    • 12% Swelling on One Side of the Face
  • People who have experienced sunken eyes were most often matched with:

    • 20% Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)
    • 20% Normal Episode of Itchy Skin
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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