A black eye is when there is bruising of the tissue under the skin around the eye. In most cases, the injury affects the face rather than the eye itself.
It is called a black eye because of the bluish-dark color of the bruising in the tissue around the eye. This happens because the capillaries, or tiny blood vessels, have burst and leaked blood under the skin.
Another name for a black eye is a “shiner.” The medical name is a periorbital hematoma.
As fluids collect in the space around the eye, bruising, swelling, and puffiness result. This can make it difficult to open the eye. Vision may blur temporarily. There may be pain around the eye, and possibly a headache.
Any bleeding inside the eye also needs medical care, as there could be eye damage that could lead to vision problems.
A black eye can happen when something strikes a person on the face. This could be a ball, a fist, a door, or another item.
A black eye can also occur after some types of dental or cosmetic surgery. The bruising can last for several days.
A black eye itself is not dangerous, and the discoloration is usually due to bruising around the eye. Sometimes, however, it can be a sign of a more serious condition.
Bruising around both eyes, known as raccoon eyes, may indicate a skull fracture or other type of head injury. This requires urgent medical attention.
If a person receives an injury to the area around the eye, they are likely to notice some swelling.
As the swelling spreads, the color of the skin will change. First, it will be red, then it will gradually change to dark blue, deep violet, and possibly black.
Pain may be felt either constantly, or only if someone touches the affected area.
Sometimes there is a red patch on the eye. This is a subconjunctival hemorrhage. It usually heals after 2 to 3 weeks.subconjunctival hemorrhage. It usually heals after 2 to 3 weeks.
Within a few days, the swelling will decrease, and the discoloration becomes lighter. The dark colors gradually fade after a few days, from dark blue, violet, or black, to a yellowish-green.
Vision problems, usually blurriness, may occur.
A black eye normally disappears within 1 to 2 weeks, and it does not normally need medical attention.
A black eye will normally heal without medical intervention, but it can sometimes be a sign of something more serious. In this case, it may need medical attention.
The biggest concern with any head injury is to ensure that there is no skull fracture, no hematoma that is affecting important structures such as the eyes, and no bleeding or swelling within the brain.
A number of symptoms may indicate that these complications are present.
If the following occur, the person will need urgent medical attention:
- bleeding from the nose or ears
- blood on the surface of the eye or an inability to move the eye
- two black eyes, which may indicate a fractured skull
- a loss of consciousness at the time of an accident or after
- seizures or vomiting
The person should also see a doctor if they have:
- persistent vision problems
- double vision
- a feeling that something is in the eye
- difficulty moving the eyes
- a headache that lasts more than 2 days
Cold and warm treatment can help relieve a black eye.
Ice can help to relieve the swelling and discomfort of a black eye. The person should apply ice for around 15 minutes every hour during the first day, and five times during the second.
- press the ice pack hard
- apply ice directly onto the most injured part
- put ice directly onto the skin
The person should use an ice pack, ice wrapped in a cloth, or a bag of frozen vegetables, wrapped in a cloth.
On the third day, a warm compress may help.
There is no evidence to show that placing a raw steak on a black eye will help to heal it. Raw meat contains bacteria that should not be in contact with the mucous membrane of the eye.
The person should protect their eye during the recovery process.
Strategies to help recovery include:
- refraining from any activity that could further damage the area or that could undermine the healing process.
- having the head higher than the rest of the body when sleeping
- using suitable pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Avoid ibuprofen and aspirin, as they reduce the blood’s ability to clot. This can lead to further bleeding and bruising.
The doctor will normally recommend home treatment, such as ice and acetaminophen.
If they suspect a more serious injury, for example, fractures to the bones of the face, they will refer the person to a specialist.
This may be:
- a neurosurgeon if a brain or skull injury is suspected
- an ophthalmologist if there appears to be an injury to the eye
- an ears, nose, and throat (ENT) a plastic surgeon or other specialist if there is a face injury or serious cuts
A number of measures can reduce the likelihood of traumatic injury, including a black eye.
Here are some tips:
Rugs and carpets: Fix or place these to avoid wrinkles and slipping
Other trip hazards: Keep the stairs and floor clear of cables, clutter, and other items, especially in areas where people walk
Protective gear: People who participate in activities that increase the risk to the face, such as martial arts, boxing, and contact sports should use protective gear. Helmets are essential when cycling or riding a motorcycle.
Goggles: These can help protect the eyes during activities such as gardening, woodwork, or metalwork.
Car drivers and passengers must always wear a seat belt.