A black eye, also known as a periorbital hematoma, results from broken blood vessels under the skin after a traumatic event. It’s characterized by blue and purple skin discoloration around the eye. In some cases, a black eye can affect both eyes (raccoon eyes).
Potential triggers for a black eye include:
- Dental surgery
- Laser treatments
- Sinus infections
- Eye infections (e.g., cellulitis)
- Skull fractures1
- Allergic reactions
- Underlying health conditions like amyloidosis and neuroblastoma
- Certain medications, such as heparin and warfarin, can promote bruising and prolonged bleeding.
Most cases of black eyes are accompanied by pain, swelling, and discoloration of the affected area. However, they don’t pose a serious health risk and usually heal without professional treatment.
12 Home Remedies for a Black Eye
You can treat a black eye fast with the methods listed below. These remedies aim to relieve symptoms as natural healing takes place. Some also enhance the healing process.
Watch out for severe symptoms, such as vision changes or bleeding inside the eye, which require immediate medical attention.
1. Cold Compress
Experts say ice can reduce swelling and pain by lowering skin temperature and nerve activity.2 Wrap an ice pack in a clean washcloth and gently apply it to your black eye for about 15 to 20 minutes. Do this several times a day for about two days.
Avoid direct skin contact with ice for extended periods, which can cause ice burns (skin damage).
2. Warm Compress
Heat therapy increases blood flow, reduces swelling, and enhances healing in vessels and skin around the black eye.3 The heat dissolves the trapped and clotted blood, enabling faster reabsorption.
Perform warm compresses at least 48 hours after the cold compress sessions (when the swelling has subsided). To do this, place a warm (not hot) pad or cloth on your black eye several times a day for about two days.
3. Chilled Cucumber Therapy
Cucumber has anti-inflammatory effects and no dose-dependent side effects.4 Applying chilled cucumbers in 10-minute sessions might also help reduce pain.
The high water content in cucumber hydrates the skin, while the cool temperature decreases blood flow to the areas around the eyes. This soothes the skin around the eyes and alleviates swelling.
4. Gentle Massage
When the black eye is no longer tender or raw, gentle massages on the area will improve blood circulation and promote healing. If massaging the area causes pain, avoid this remedy.
5. Over-The-Counter Pain Medication
Pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin (Entrophen) are effective in relieving pain associated with black eyes.5
Check with your primary care provider (PCP) before taking any pain relievers.
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.
Increased blood pressure will cause blood to fill the vessels beneath the eye, increasing swelling and darkening. This can 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 helps prevent fluid accumulation under the eyes, thus preventing swelling. You can keep your head elevated with extra pillows or by 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 effects and might be a viable alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Arnica creams and gels effectively resolve discoloration associated with black eyes. Be sure not to get any in your eyes.
9. Eye and Face Makeup
A black eye can make you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious, especially in public.
Eye and face makeup can help conceal the black and blue discoloration as the bruise heals. However, avoid corrector concealer if your bruise involves broken skin. This may expose internal tissues to irritants and infectious bacteria.
10. Vitamin C
Research has shown that vitamin C strengthens blood vessels and reduces bruising.6 This quickens the healing process.
A notable source of Vitamin C is bilberry extract, a close cousin of blueberries and cranberries. In addition to vitamin C, bilberry extract has other antioxidants. This reduces inflammation.
11. Pineapple Juice
Pineapple juice contains a special group of enzymes known as bromelain, which reduces pain and inflammation.7
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.
Bromelain is considered a safe dietary supplement by the FDA, but it’s important to consult your doctor about the dosing requirements for your situation.
12. Avoid Dangerous Situations
You can promote healing by taking steps to prevent further injury. This may involve avoiding certain contact sports, such as football, boxing, or karate, among others.
Also, remember to wear protective eyewear when necessary.
How Long Does a Black Eye Take 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.8 A persistent black eye may signal a serious underlying condition that requires immediate attention.
When is Professional Treatment Necessary?
Black eyes often get worse before they improve, so don’t be alarmed if your eye appears worse in the first few days.
However, if you have a persistent black eye, it could be due to a serious underlying condition or skull fracture.
Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of the following:
- Severe pain in or around the eye
- Vision changes, including blurriness, double vision (diplopia), floaters, or vision loss
- Blood inside the eye (hyphema)
- Excessive swelling
- Persistent headache that does not go away
- Bleeding from the ears or nose
- Disorientation, 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
- A black eye results from broken blood vessels under the skin after a traumatic event.
- You can treat a black eye fast with cold and heat therapy, cucumber therapy, painkillers, rest, and vitamin C supplementation.
- In the absence of an underlying condition or serious injury, a black eye should take 2 to 3 weeks to heal fully.
- Seek professional help if you experience severe symptoms such as vision loss, excessive swelling, and/or behavioral changes.
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