Black eye

The common black-and-blue mark linked with any bruise is very evident when it surrounds the eye. The dark-purplish circle, commonly called a black eye, is an internal bleeding injury and will last a little more than a week. The colour you see is caused by tiny blood vessels under the skin breaking and bleeding. As the injury heals, the body absorbs the blood. 

When a fist causes a black eye, the damage is likely limited and will heal with a little self-care. When something harder causes the black eye — a bat, for example — you should be concerned about a more serious injury such as a fracture or serious eye injury. These problems require medical attention right away. An eye injury that is not treated by a doctor can lead to glaucoma or impaired vision.
What are the common symptoms of a black eye?

What are the common symptoms of a black eye?

  • Black or purplish ring around the eye, appearing after trauma to the eye
  • Swelling around the eye, sometimes dramatic 
  • Tenderness and sometimes pain
  • The eye and cheek below may appear purple, green and yellow a few days after the impact, as blood travels and breaks down 
What to do for a black eye?

What to do for a black eye?

  • Relieve any discomfort with acetaminophen, such as Tylenol.
  • Apply ice to the eye as soon as possible after the injury occurs. Use ice for 10 minutes every hour to reduce swelling and limit bruising. Avoid placing ice directly on the eye. Wrap a bag of ice cubes or an ice pack in a towel before using. 
  • Wear sunglasses in bright areas to avoid eyestrain.
Seek medical attention if:

Seek medical attention if:

  • Blood is pooling in the eye or is visible through the cornea  – this requires immediate medical attention
  • The pain is severe (more than tender or sore), or a mild pain persists for more than a day 
  • Your eyelid is cut or you cannot open it 
  • Your vision is disturbed
  • You feel faint, dizzy or confused
  • Your eyeball becomes red or swollen
  • You have difficulty moving your eye
  • The bruise does not fade or disappear after 12 days
  • You notice other bruising that appears with no apparent cause

Reviewed by Trauma specialists at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
Last updated: March 2020


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