One symptom of allergies that appear as dark circles under the eyes is called allergic shiners. These are also known as periorbital venous congestion or allergic facies. So, what causes these to appear in the first place and how is it treated?
What are Allergic Shiners?
As mentioned above, allergic shiners appear as dark circles under the eyes. These shadowy and dark pigments somehow resemble bruises and are caused by a congestion of the sinuses and the nose. Unlike bruises that are caused by physical trauma, allergic shiners are caused by an allergy.
Apart from the purple or blue tint appearing under the eyes, other symptoms associated with this condition include the following.
- Congestion of Nose and Sinuses
- Itchy, Red, or Watery Eyes
- Itchy Throat
- Runny Nose
A lot of individuals often mistake allergic symptoms as the start of a sinus infection, flu, or cold. However, one must take note that the symptoms of an allergy persist for two weeks or longer. Also, unlike an allergy symptom, infections and colds rarely cause a fever and body aches. The symptoms of an allergy vary in severity and may come and go depending on the exposure of the allergen as well as the time of the year.
As mentioned, allergic shiners are a result of nasal and sinus congestion. The resulting congestion leads to restriction of blood draining from both areas that cause the veins under the eyes to pool with blood and widen. However, what causes such congestion in the nasal cavities and sinuses?
One common cause of nasal congestion is allergic rhinitis. It is also called nasal allergy and occurs when the body’s immune system reacts to a foreign body like pet dander or pollen. The body treats these foreign bodies as if they were dangerous. Some of the common allergens that lead to allergic shiners include the following.
- Cockroach Feces
- Dust Mites
- Fungus and Mold
- Pet Dander
Aside from foreign bodies, some individuals may also be allergic to food. Such food that commonly results in an allergy includes wheat, nuts, eggs, and dairy. Environmental irritants can also lead to nasal congestion. These may also cause worsening of an allergic reaction, and such irritants include tobacco smoke, perfumes or other fragrances, and air pollution.
The time of year is another constituent that heightens the risk of developing allergic shiners. Individuals with seasonal allergies would quickly notice that some of their symptoms are active and present during a particular time of the year. Such an occurrence can help them pinpoint the actual allergen that is responsible for their allergic shiners.
For example, if the allergic symptoms worsen during the early spring, then it likely suggests an allergic reaction to tree pollen. On the other hand, allergic symptoms that manifest during the summer or late spring indicate an allergy to grass pollen. Furthermore, allergies triggered in the fall season is a result of ragweed.
Treating allergic shiners is similar to treating an allergy. The treatment methods primary goal is to reduce congestion in the sinus and nasal cavities. Some of the options are as follows.
1. Antihistamine Medicines
These include over-the-counter medications such as loratadine and diphenhydramine. Such drugs significantly reduce the symptoms of an allergy.
2. Decongestant Eye Drops
Such eye drops include tetrahydrozoline and naphazoline that relieve watery and itchy eyes. Much like decongestant nasal sprays, eye drops used more than three days may cause an allergic symptom to return.
3. Decongestant Nasal Sprays
These sprays lessen the pressure and the swelling in the nasal airways. Such sprays include neo-synephrine and oxymetazoline. Again, like the eye drops, these sprays must not be used for more than three days as it may result in allergic symptoms to return.
4. Prescription Medications
Doctors usually prescribe stronger medications if the treatment options mentioned above fail to address the allergic symptoms. An example of prescription medication is montelukast. The drug lessens the inflammation which is a result of exposure to an allergen.
Also, the treatment options mentioned above may help manage and reduce the symptoms. However, the best treatment is to avoid the allergen causing the allergic symptoms.
When to Visit a Doctor
An individual must seek the help of a healthcare professional if he or she experiences any of the following.
- Symptoms affect activities of daily life (ADL)
- High fever
- Nasal discharge is accompanied by sinus pain and is green
- Over-the-counter allergy medicines fail to help
- Another condition such as asthma aggravates the symptoms further
- Allergic shiners happen all year-round
- Allergy medications result in problematic side effects
Preventing an allergic shiner is focused on avoiding triggers of an allergic reaction. The following steps may help prevent a nasal allergy.
- Avoid and recognize the triggers of an allergy whenever possible.
- Utilize HEPA filters in vacuum cleaners and air conditioners.
- Wash upholstery and linen every three to four weeks with hot water.
- Use an air humidifier which adds moisture to the air.
- Utilize a nasal saline spray which helps clear allergens and loosens mucus from the nose.
- Utilize saline drops to remove allergens from the eyes.
- Stay well hydrated by consuming clear liquids.
- Use a nasal rinse bottle to flush out nasal passages each day.
Other preventive measures may also be taken apart from these methods mentioned above. These, of course, depend on the allergy trigger.
1. Indoor Trigger
These preventive methods are aimed at removing the allergic triggers that may be present inside of the home. Such methods include the following.
- Clear damage caused by water once it occurs.
- Treat fungus and mold in the home immediately.
- Regularly clean surfaces that are prone to mold.
- Avoid mold growth and condensation by opening windows in the bathroom.
- After cooking, utilize vent fans in the kitchen.
- Use allergy-proof covers for beddings and mattresses.
- Wash children’s soft toys and linens in hot water weekly.
- Remove carpets.
- Vacuum and dust the home regularly.
- After touching pets, wash hands thoroughly.
- Prohibit pets from entering the bedroom.
- Kill cockroaches present in the house.
2. Outdoor Trigger
An outdoor trigger may be environmental irritants or seasonal allergens. These may be prevented with the help of the following steps.
- During allergy season, keep all windows closed.
- During windy days, stay indoors as the mold spores may be high.
- Avoid tracking allergens into the home by removing shoes at the front door.
- Immediately shower and change after heading out, especially during the allergy season.
- Wear glasses or sunglasses to prevent pollen from coming into contact with the eyes.
- Use a scarf to cover the mouth when heading out.
- Avoid drying clothes outside as it may capture pollen in the air.
- Keep the lawn mowed and manicured. Ask another person to do this for you, especially if one has grass allergies.
- When gardening, make use of a dust or pollen mask.
- Avoid mold growth by keeping drains and gutters clean.