A black eye, medically known as a periorbital hematoma, is caused by blood accumulation beneath the skin around the eye.
A black eye may result from eye trauma or facial injury during a fight, accident, or contact sport. Symptoms include:
- Swelling around the affected eye
- Discoloration (blue or purple)
- Blurry vision (temporary)
The bruising, swelling, and blue and purple discoloration result from broken blood vessels under the skin. Other causes include:
- Dental surgeries (cosmetic and nasal)
- Sinus infections
- Infections around the eye (e.g., cellulitis)
- Skull fractures (may cause blackening of both eyes)
- Allergic reactions
- Hyphema (blood inside the eye) — this is a medical emergency
- Underlying health conditions such as amyloidosis and neuroblastoma
- Certain medications (e.g., heparin and warfarin) promote bruising and prolonged bleeding
Most cases of black eyes pose no concern. A black eye due to eye trauma can heal without professional treatment.
How Long Does it Take for a Black Eye to Heal?
Healing time depends on the cause and severity. If the black eye is due to a minor injury or trauma, the purple and blue discoloration will fade to yellow or green after a few days as the pooled blood clears. A black eye usually takes 2 to 3 weeks to heal fully.
A persistent black eye may signal a serious underlying condition requiring immediate attention.
11 Home Remedies for a Black Eye
There are several home remedies for black eyes that relieve swelling and pain. Let’s look at these remedies in detail, including when to consult your doctor.
1. Cold Compress
Applying ice to the black eye can reduce swelling and numb the pain. To do this, wrap some ice cubes in a clean cloth or towel and gently apply to the affected area for about 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat this several times a day for about 2 days.
Note: Do not apply the ice directly to the bare skin for extended periods as this may cause ice burn (damage to the skin).
2. Chilled Cucumber Therapy
Cucumber is known for its anti-inflammatory effect with no dose-dependent side effects.2 Applying chilled cucumbers for 10-minute increments might also help with the pain.
The high water content in cucumber hydrates the skin, while the cool temperature decreases blood flow to the areas around your eyes. This soothes the skin around your eyes and alleviates swelling.
3. Warm Compress
After applying a cold compress several times over 48 hours, place a warm (not hot) pad or cloth on the area several times during the day. Doing so enables proper blood flow.
4. Gentle Massage
When the bruise has partially healed and is no longer tender or raw, gently massaging the area will improve blood circulation, promoting healing. If massaging the area causes pain, avoid this remedy.
5. Over-The-Counter Pain Medication
Medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin (Entrophen) are effective in relieving pain associated with black eyes.
Avoid ibuprofen and aspirin if the skin around your eyes is bruised, broken, or bleeding. These medications reduce the blood’s ability to clot and increase the risk of further bruising.
6. Enough Rest
When you’re tired, stressed, or have sleepless nights, your body produces more cortisol, the primary stress hormone known to increase energy levels, heart rate, and blood pressure.3
Increased blood flow in the body will fill the blood vessels beneath the eye, darkening the overlying skin. This may manifest as dark circles under the eyes. Getting enough rest will help your body regulate cortisol levels, reducing the amount of blood flow to the eyes.
7. Elevating the Head
Elevating your head during rest will prevent fluid accumulation under the eyes, thus preventing swelling. You can keep your head elevated using extra pillows or sleeping on a reclining chair or bed.
Arnica, also called wolf’s bane or mountain tobacco, is extracted from the plant Arnica montana.
It’s believed to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties and could be a viable alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).4 Arnica creams and gels effectively resolve discoloration associated with black eyes.
9. Eye and Face Makeup
A black eye can make you uncomfortable, especially in public. Eye and face makeup can help conceal the black and blue discoloration as the area heals. However, avoid corrector concealers if your bruises or injury involves broken skin. This may expose internal tissues to infectious bacteria.
10. Vitamin C
Another all-natural remedy for treating black eyes is vitamin C. Research has shown that vitamin C strengthens blood vessels and lessens bruising.7
A notable source of it is bilberry extract, a close cousin of blueberries and cranberries. In addition to vitamin C, bilberry extract has other antioxidants that strengthen blood vessels. This reduces the risk of bruising and inflammation.
11. Pineapple Juice
Pineapple juice contains a special group of enzymes known as bromelain, which reduces pain and inflammation.5
Although drinking pineapple juice may not deliver significant amounts of the enzyme at once, this remedy has long-term benefits. Fortunately, bromelain also comes in pills and creams for effective delivery.
Bromelain is considered a safe dietary supplement by the FDA, but it’s important to consult your doctor about the dosing requirements for your specific situation.6
You can promote healing by taking steps to prevent further injury. This may involve avoiding certain contact sports such as boxing and wearing protective eyewear when necessary.
When to See a Doctor
If you have a persistent black eye, it could be due to a serious underlying condition or severe eye injury. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice the following:
- Severe pain in or around the eye
- Vision changes including blurriness, double vision, floaters, or vision loss
- Blood inside the eye (hyphema)
- Excessive swelling
- Headache that does not go away
- Bleeding from the ears or nose
- Dizziness, or loss of consciousness
- Bruising around both eyes
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty moving the eye
- Behavioral changes, e.g., confusion
- Lethargy (lack of energy)
- Signs of infection: red eyes, fever, or discharge from the eye
Medical Treatment For Black Eyes
Treatment for black eyes depends on the cause. Common options include:
- Bandages/stitches. To prevent bleeding and aid healing in cases of broken skin.
- Hospitalization and monitoring. In cases of serious head injury.
- Antibiotic therapy. To prevent bacterial infections, especially in cases with open wounds.
- Surgery. To fix a damaged eye, broken nose, or skull fracture. Cosmetic surgery may also get rid of the scars.
If the reason for your black eye is unclear, your doctor may refer you to other specialists for further testing. Specialists include:
- Neurosurgeons, if brain or skull injuries are suspected
- Ophthalmologists, if the eye is affected
- Ears, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeons, if there are facial injuries
Can a Black Eye Be Permanent?
Many cases of black eyes result from eye injuries or trauma and will usually heal without leaving any permanent damage.
A persistent black eye may indicate:
- A serious health condition, such as cellulitis of the eye
- A severe injury, such as a skull fracture
- Effects of medications, such as blood thinners and anticoagulants (heparin and warfarin)
Severe bruising or scarring might make a black eye appear permanent. Some bruises can heal with permanent hyperpigmentation, especially if the blood that leaks into the surrounding tissues does not clear.
Major cuts may also lead to permanent scarring of the skin around the eye. Such scars can darken as they heal, making the area appear dark all the time.
- A black eye (periorbital hematoma) results from an accumulation of blood beneath the skin around the eye.
- A black eye may result from eye trauma or facial injury during a fight, accident, or contact sport. It may also indicate an underlying condition.
- Home remedies include painkillers, cold and warm compresses, rest, massages, and diet supplementation.
- Professional treatment for black eyes depends on the cause—common options include hospital monitoring, antibiotic therapy, stitching, and surgery.
- If your black eye takes longer than usual to heal, even after home remedies, consult your primary healthcare provider for advanced treatment.
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