Black Eye

video by Dr. Carlo Oller (Emergency Physician)

What is a black eye?

A black eye happens when something hits your eye, cheek, or nose and causes a bruise above or under your eye. Bruises happen when blood vessels under the skin break, but the skin isn’t cut. When the blood vessels break, blood leaks into the tissues under the skin and makes it change color.

A black eye starts off red in color, and then turns blue or purple. As it heals, a black eye can turn green and yellow. Often, the swelling gets worse in the first day after the injury or when you wake up the next morning. Most black eyes heal in 1 to 2 weeks, but some take longer.

Black eye over time…

How is a black eye treated?

A black eye doesn’t need treatment. It will get better on its own. But you can “ice” your black eye to make it feel better and help it heal. To do this, put a cold gel pack, bag of ice, or bag of frozen vegetables on the injured area every 1 to 2 hours, for 15 minutes each time. Put a thin towel between the ice (or other cold object) and your skin. Use the ice (or other cold object) for at least 6 hours after your injury. Some people find it helpful to ice longer, even up to 2 days after their injury.

You can also take medicines such as acetaminophen (sample brand name: Tylenol) or ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil, Motrin) to help with the pain and swelling. But people who have certain conditions or take certain medicines should not take ibuprofen. If you aren’t sure whether you can take ibuprofen, ask your doctor or nurse.

Should I see a doctor or nurse?

See your doctor or nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms with your black eye:

●Fever

●Any problems seeing, such as blurred vision or double vision

●Very bad pain in your eye, especially when trying to move it from side to side

●Bleeding from the eye

●Nausea and vomiting

●A slow heart rate

●Trouble breathing through your nose

A nose that looks crooked

Will I need tests?

Maybe. Most people don’t need tests for a black eye, but your doctor might want you to have an eye exam. Plus, if you are having trouble seeing or moving your eye, your doctor might take a special kind of X-ray called a CT scan. The CT scan will show if any of the bones around your eye are broken. It can also show if you have damage to the eyeball itself.

Dr. Carlo Oller
Board Certified Emergency Physician

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