A black eye is when there is bluish-dark bruising under the skin around the eye. This happens when capillaries, or tiny blood vessels, burst and leak blood under the skin. Treatment may include home remedies and medical interventions.

Another name for a black eye is a “shiner.” The medical name is a periorbital hematoma. In most cases, the injury affects the face rather than the eye itself.

As fluids collect in the space around the eye, bruising, swelling, and puffiness can develop. This can make it difficult to open the eye. Vision may blur temporarily. There may be pain around the eye, and a person may also experience a headache.

Any bleeding inside the eye also needs medical care, as there could be eye damage that may lead to vision problems.

Read on to learn more about what can cause a black eye and how to recognize symptoms. This article also looks at treatment options, when to contact a doctor, and more.

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A black eye can happen when something strikes a person in the face. This could be a ball, a fist, a door, or another item.

A black eye can also occur after some type of dental or cosmetic surgery.

A black eye itself is not dangerous, and the discoloration is usually due to bruising around the eye. However, if a black eye and other symptoms occur as a result of physical trauma to the eye, then emergency treatment may be necessary.

Bruising around both eyes, known as “raccoon eyes” or “raccoon sign,” 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 may be red, then it will gradually change to:

  • purple
  • green
  • yellow
  • black

A person may feel pain constantly, or only if someone touches the affected area. Vision problems, usually blurriness, may also occur.

Within a few days, the swelling will usually decrease, and the discoloration becomes lighter.

A black eye normally disappears within 2–3 weeks, and it does not normally need medical attention.

Following injury, there may be bleeding on the white part of the eye. This is a subconjunctival hemorrhage. It usually heals after about 2 weeks.

Learn about the healing stages of a black eye.

Various home remedies for black eyes can help encourage healing and manage pain. Examples include:

It is important to avoid pressing hard against the bruise. A person should not apply ice directly to the ice.

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, as this increases the risk of infection.

Learn more about how to treat a black eye at home.

Doctors will usually recommend home remedies for treating a black eye.

Medical treatments may be necessary if a black eye does not heal on its own, or if it occurs alongside other symptoms.

Before advising on a suitable treatment plan, a doctor will need to determine the cause of a person’s symptoms. They may check a person’s vision and examine the bones around the eye and in the face.

The doctor may also order imaging tests, such as an X-ray or CT scan, if they suspect a bone fracture.

The doctor can then advise on suitable medical treatments based on the underlying cause.

In some cases, it may be possible to reduce the likelihood of a black eye. Tips include:

  • wearing protective goggles during activities such as gardening, woodwork, and metalwork
  • wearing protective eyewear when playing sports such as martial arts, boxing, and contact sports
  • enduring rugs and carpets around the home are secured in place to avoid tripping
  • removing clutter and other trip hazards from around the home
  • keeping areas around the home and in the garden well-lit

A black eye will normally heal without medical intervention. However, it can sometimes be a sign of something more serious, such as:

  • a skull fracture
  • hematoma affecting important structures such as the eyes
  • swelling or bleeding affecting the brain

A person should contact a doctor if the brushing does not heal or if they experience any other symptoms that may indicate a more serious condition. These can include:

  • 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
  • loss of consciousness at the time of an accident or after
  • vomiting
  • seizures

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

Here are some frequently asked questions about black eyes.

How long does a black eye last?

A black eye typically heals without medical treatment within around 2–3 weeks. If it lasts longer than this, it may be a sign of an underlying condition. It is important to contact a doctor if symptoms of a black eye do not improve.

How do you heal a black eye fast?

Applying a cold pack or wrapped ice to the bruise within the first 1–2 days can help encourage healing. After this time, a person can apply a warm compress.

Why did I randomly wake up with a black eye?

A person may wake up with a black eye if they experienced physical trauma to the face the day before. It can also happen if they have recently had cosmetic surgery. If a person wakes up with a black eye they cannot explain, it is important to seek medical advice to determine the cause.

A black eye is a bruise under the skin around the eye. It can happen as a result of injury to the face, or following surgery. Symptoms can also include swelling, puffiness, and a headache.

In most cases, a black eye will heal on its own within around 2–3 weeks. Home remedies can help ease symptoms.

However, if the black eye does not heal, or if a person experiences other symptoms, it can indicate a more serious condition. It is important to contact a doctor or seek immediate medical help.