What Are Sunken Eyes? Causes and Treatments

sunken eyes looking at you

Sunken Eyes?

Do your eyes have dark circles, look deep-seated or have visible blood vessels underneath?

If yes, you may have sunken eyes or tear trough hollows, as medical professionals call them.

Despite the skin's general tenacity, the area under our eyes tends to be delicate, hence the darker coloring and sunken look relative to other parts of the face.

Just like the exact appearance of hollow eyes differs from person to person, numerous factors can make your under eyes hollow, including aging, sleeplessness, drastic weight loss, dehydration and exhaustion.

Fortunately, the onset of tear trough hollows should not be a major cause for concern for most people as the deep-seated eye phenomenon rarely causes adverse symptoms besides the darker and relatively hollow appearance around the eyes.

Furthermore, there are plenty of treatment options ranging from natural home remedies to more advanced clinical treatments.

What Are Sunken Eyes?

Also known as skeletonized eyes or tear trough hollows, sunken eyes are a condition that makes the skin underneath or around the eyes appear hollow or pulled inwards.

As the eyeballs recede into the eye socket, the eyes look sunken, giving off a malnourished or exhausted look.

The slightly unnatural appearance resulting from this condition may be unnerving for most people, but the problem is rarely life-threatening.

Since the skin loses elasticity as we age, tear trough hollows are common among older people.

However, aging is not the only cause of this condition, and younger people may develop deep-seated eyes due to weight loss, some medical conditions, trauma, surgery and more.

What Causes Hollow Eyes?

Tear trough hollows are often not considered a medical issue. In fact, most instances are a reflection of an individual's nutrition and daily habits.

Addressing unhealthy living habits can, in most cases, solve the issue completely without a need for further treatment.

Knowing the common causes of tear trough hollows can help you treat it, prevent its recurrence or avoid it entirely. Here are some issues that could affect the skin under your eyes.

1. Dehydration

Improper hydration is arguably the most common cause of tear trough hollows, especially among children – children are highly susceptible to stomach viruses/bacteria-induced dehydration.

If your child exhibits excessive thirst, an abnormally dry mouth, diarrhea, vomiting, low urine output and deep-seated eyes, take them to the doctor immediately as they may be severely dehydrated.

On the other hand, adults are more likely to experience dehydration-induced skeletonized eyes due to low water intake and excessive coffee and prepackaged drinks consumption.

The latter, in particular, can cause diuretic effects such as high urine output, ultimately leading to dehydration and tear trough hollows.

2. Aging

Collagen is by far the most abundant protein in our bodies, and for plenty of good reason.

It is a major building block for most body tissues, including bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles, and a huge contributor to the skin's elasticity.

As we age and our bodies produce less collagen, the skin (including the under-eyes) becomes less flexible. The rapid collagen loss around the eyes makes them recede into the eye sockets, hence the deep-seated eye appearance common among older people.

3. Sleep Issues

Unfortunately, as more people worldwide strive to put food on their tables while attending to personal commitments, poor-quality sleep becomes more prevalent.

Frequently sleeping less than seven hours per night not only takes a heavy toll on your appearance (eyes included) but also your cognitive functioning.

To ensure you get good-quality sleep every night, adhere to the following elements:

  • Get at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep
  • Spend most of your sleep cycles in a comfortable bed
  • Practice falling asleep in no more than 30 minutes
  • Wake no more than 20 minutes during each sleep cycle

4. Vitamin Deficiencies

Tear trough hollows are a common symptom of iron, vitamin C and vitamin K deficiencies and a sign of malnutrition overall.

Vitamins C and K help the body absorb iron, reduce bruising and enhance the blood's ability to clot. Deficiencies in iron or either of these vitamins can cause unhealthy skin, easy bruising and deep-seated eyes.

5. Rapid Weight Loss

Deciding to cut unhealthy weight is often a step in the right direction.

Whether you are aware or not, the body tends to shed excess fat from the face relatively faster than most other body parts.

While this may sound like good news, drastic weight loss can make the skin around the eyes more transparent, cause the blood vessels underneath the eyes to become more prominent and make the eyes look sunken.

Drastic weight loss might also come with nutritional deficiencies that further accentuate the deep-seated eye problem.

6. Genetics

Like other facial features, your eyes' position in the eye sockets is greatly determined by your genetics. If most of your immediate relatives have dark circles around the eyes or deep-seated eyes for no apparent reason, the issue could just be part of your genetic makeup.

7. Trauma

Blunt force to the face or the area surrounding the eyes can cause a sunken look. While orbital (eye socket) fractures can heal given enough care and time, orbital blowout fractures tend to leave the eye socket's thin floor permanently ruptured. This deformity makes the affected eyes look hollow.

8. Sinus Infections

Sinusitis – an infection that causes inflammation in the sinuses – can make the eyes appear sunken. Other common symptoms include nasal congestion, pressure and pain. Consider seeing a doctor if you experience sinusitis symptoms.

9. Excessive Sun Exposure

The sun's UV (ultraviolet) radiation prompts melanocytes in the skin to produce more melanin, hence the tan we experience after long periods of sun exposure. People with naturally darker skin around their eyes risk developing dark circles after frequent bouts of sun exposure. Depending on the extent of the sun damage, dark under-eye circles might create a sleep-deprived appearance.

10. Allergies

Besides sneezing, nasal congestion and itchiness in the throat, allergic rhinitis or seasonal allergies can cause dark circles to develop under the eyes. These “allergic shiners” (dark circles) are often itchy, further adding to the problem when people aggressively rub the skin around their eyes.

11. Smoking

Smoking is not only bad for the respiratory system but also a huge impediment to the body's ability to produce collagen. Reduced collagen production causes the skin to lose its elasticity, ergo visibly saggy facial skin and an increased likelihood of deep-seated eyes.

How Do You Fix Sunken Eyes?

Unless your tear trough hollows are genetic, you can drastically enhance your eyes' appearance using natural remedies, clinical treatment, or addressing the underlying issue. For instance, if your condition stems from a sinus infection or an allergy, your doctor might recommend antihistamines, antibiotics, eye drops or a combination of the three depending on your situation.

Clinical treatments for tear trough hollows, while effective, are generally expensive and out of reach for some people. If you cannot afford costly treatments such as dermal fillers or cosmetic surgery or would like to try more affordable methods first, consider leveling up your skincare routine and leading a healthier lifestyle overall.

What Natural Remedies Should You Try?

1. Proper Hydration

The old saying “water is life” rings true for skin health and, in this case, eye appearance. You not only need water to stay alive and healthy but also to keep your skin supple. People with deep-seated eyes typically experience drastic improvements by drinking more water and limiting their diuretic beverage intake. While most health gurus advocate for 8-10 glasses of water per day, the optimal daily amount should vary based on your size (weight relative to height) and your area's climate.

2. Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is rich in fatty acids that help the skin retain moisture, making it softer and accelerating its healing. It also contains anti-inflammatory properties that may soothe skin problems while enhancing the skin's natural barrier function for added protection against UV rays.

Clean your under-eyes and massage them with 3-4 drops of coconut oil in gentle, circular motions. Wash the oil off the next morning when you wake up and repeat the process every night before going to sleep for optimal results.

3. Good-Quality Sleep

Functioning on insufficient or poor-quality sleep causes many negative changes, but perhaps the most instantly recognizable are dark circles under the eyes and dull-looking skin. Since the skin (and most of the body) rebuilds itself during sleep, getting less than the minimum recommended hours of sleep each night is essentially robbing your skin of the time it needs to heal.

The CDC (Centers For Disease Control And Prevention) recommends adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night while older adults, infants and teenagers sleep slightly longer. That said, always make it your mission to get a full night's sleep each night to eliminate or prevent tear trough hollows. Additionally, if you always wake up with swollen eyes, elevate your head using a high enough pillow to prevent blood and other fluids from accumulating under your eyes.

4. Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is very acidic and quite possibly nature's bleach. Its acidic properties make it an excellent exfoliating agent when used carefully. In this case, gently rubbing your under-eyes with lemon juice can help remove dead skin and alleviate discoloration. However, you should never apply lemon juice to your under-eyes without diluting it with water and even then, never let it get into your eyes.

5. Raw Potatoes

Raw potatoes are rich in starch, enzymes, vitamin C and vitamin K that collectively stimulate tissue regeneration, improve wound healing and make the eyes appear less tired when applied under the eyes. Besides, the coolness of raw potatoes makes them effective at constricting blood vessels, reducing inflammation and making the dark circles less visible.

What Clinical Treatments are Available for Sunken Eyes?

Although typically expensive, clinical treatments are a quick and effective way of eliminating tear trough hollows. You can choose either major or minor surgical treatment depending on your condition's severity, what you can afford, and the risk you are willing to bear. That said, here are some clinical treatments you might consider:

  • Dermal Filler Injections
    Dermal fillers, including Perlane, Juvederm and Restylane, involve injecting hyaluronic acid into the under-eyes. The procedure is often painless, takes a few minutes to complete, and the results are almost instant. The only downside to dermal filler injections is that their effects are temporary, so you may have to repeat the procedure annually or every few months.
  • Cosmetic Surgery
    Cosmetic procedures such as face-lifts, brow-lifts and blepharoplasty are major surgical treatments that can eliminate the appearance of tear trough hollows. Compared to dermal filler injections, the techniques used are more invasive, hence more painful and necessitating lengthier recovery times. Nonetheless, cosmetic surgery results last longer, making the procedure cheaper than dermal filler injections in the long run.

Surgical treatments are hands down the best methods for treating eye fractures, reducing tear trough hollows caused by aging and restoring balance in a damaged orbit after an eye injury.

How Can You Prevent Sunken Eyes Eyes?

The skin underneath the eyes is very delicate and, as such, demands extra care. Here is how you can prevent tear trough hollows from appearing without breaking the bank.

1. Lead A Healthy Lifestyle

Leading a healthy lifestyle staves off tear trough hollows and enables you to exploit your genetic potential. Get enough sleep every night, follow a healthy diet plan and stay hydrated.

2. Develop A Skin Care Regimen And Stick To It

Like most things in life, the best skin care regimens are simple. All you need to do is cleanse, exfoliate and moisturize your face, including the under-eyes. If necessary, apply eye cream for sunken eyes to hasten your progress.

3. Protect Your Skin

Given how delicate the skin under your eyes is, you should use any means necessary to protect it from the sun. Always apply sunscreen when stepping outside and, if possible, wear sunglasses that cover the area around your eyes.

4. Avoid Smoking

Limit the number of times you smoke or quit smoking altogether. Smoking inhibits the blood's ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, not to mention limits the body's collagen-producing potential. With less collagen comes less skin elasticity and, ultimately, dark circles under the eyes.

5. Massage Your Under-Eyes

Massages are excellent for reducing muscle tension, improving blood circulation and inducing a sense of relaxation. Frequently massaging your under-eyes can mitigate fluid buildup and ultimately prevent the appearance of tear trough hollows.

Takeaway on Sunken Eyes

Despite how unsightly they can be, tear trough hollows are, for the most part, just a manifestation of the changes our bodies undergo as we age. Fortunately, there are numerous treatment options ranging from natural remedies like lemon juice to cosmetic surgeries. Regardless of the methods you choose, always consult a doctor if the condition does not subside after weeks of treatment or if you develop other symptoms.

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