There are many ways to treat a black eye at home, such as applying ice or a warm compress. These can relieve swelling and pain.
A black eye typically occurs after a blow to the eye area or the nose. If it develops due to injury, it will usually heal on its own. A persistent black eye may indicate an underlying medical issue or a side effect of certain medications.
The medical term for a black eye is a periorbital hematoma. A hematoma is a collection of blood underneath the skin.
This article explores home remedies that may help with healing a black eye. It also offers advice on when to see a doctor and lists some medical treatments.
In most cases, a black eye does not require medical treatment.
If a person knows the cause of the injury, and they do not suspect they have a serious head injury, simple home remedies can ease their symptoms.
Applying ice to a black eye soon after the injury will help with the swelling and pain. People can administer an ice pack to the eye every hour for 15–20 minutes at a time.
It is important to wrap the ice pack in a clean cloth or towel before applying it to the skin. Placing ice directly to the injury may cause skin damage.
It is a myth that putting steak or other raw meat on the eye will help more than ice. The bacteria from raw meat could get into the eye, which can trigger an infection.
As an alternative to ice packs, people can try applying chilled cucumbers to the eye for 10 minutes at a time.
Learn how to make a cold compress here.
Applying warm compresses
After the first 48 hours, people can apply warm compresses to the eye. The warmth will help bring blood to the area, which speeds up the healing process.
Learn more about heat therapy here.
Elevating the head when lying down
Keeping the head elevated will help prevent fluid from accumulating under the eyes. At night, a person should use extra pillows to prop up their head.
Alternatively, people could choose to sleep in a chair or recliner until the swelling subsides.
Taking pain relief
An over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen, can help reduce pain and inflammation.
People should avoid aspirin, as this may increase bleeding and bruising.
Avoiding further injury
To promote the healing of a black eye, a person can take steps to prevent further injury to the eye. This may involve avoiding certain sports or activities, and wearing protective eyewear when necessary.
A person should see a doctor if their black eye does not go away within 3 weeks.
People should seek emergency medical attention if they have a black eye from a blow to the head, which also accompanies any of the following signs of a serious head injury:
- fainting or a temporary loss of consciousness
- severe or persistent headache
- blood or fluid coming from the nose or ears
- blood on the surface of the eyeball
- inability to move the eye
- double vision
- vision loss
- nausea or vomiting
A person should also seek immediate medical attention if they experience any of the following:
A black eye may require medical treatment if it does not heal, or it is due to an underlying medical condition or severe head injury.
Medical interventions for a black eye depend on its cause. Some options include:
- stitches to prevent blood loss or aid the healing of serious wounds
- antibiotics for certain wounds and infections
- surgery to treat specific injuries, such as a broken nose or skull fracture
- hospitalization and monitoring for those with a concussion
If the reason for a broken nose is unclear, a doctor may refer the person for further testing or a consultation with a specialist.
Most black eyes are due to physical injury and will usually heal fully on their own.
A black eye that does not get better on its own, or does not respond to home treatment, may indicate an underlying issue, such as:
- Bleeding disorders: A persistent black eye or bruise can
sometimessuggest a bleeding or blood clotting disorder.
- Medication side effects: Certain medications may promote bleeding or prolong bruising. Examples include drugs to prevent blood clots, such as heparin and warfarin. These medications can delay healing, resulting in a black eye that lasts longer than usual.
- Cellulitis: Cellulitis is a bacterial infection within the deeper layers of the skin. Cellulitis of the eye may develop following an eye injury that breaks the skin. Without antibiotic treatment, the symptoms of redness and swelling are likely to persist.
- Skull fracture: A skull fracture can cause a black eye, especially when it affects the facial bones. Sometimes, a broken bone presses on the blood vessels, preventing the black eye from healing. A skull fracture is a serious medical condition, so a person should seek prompt treatment for any severe blow to the face.
- Cancer: Very rarely, certain cancers can cause bleeding around the face, skull, and eyes. Certain cancers and cancer treatments can also make healing more difficult. This can cause a black eye or another injury to last much longer than usual.
A black eye can be intensely painful and may continue to look discolored for several weeks. In most cases, the pain and swelling will go away on their own.
A person should see a doctor if their black eye persists for more than 3 weeks, or if they cannot identify the cause. Sometimes, a black eye develops due to an underlying medical condition or a side effect of a particular medication. A doctor will work to identify the cause and provide appropriate treatment.
Sometimes, people develop a black eye following a head injury. Anyone who experiences symptoms of concussion or a severe head injury should seek emergency medical treatment.