- Black Eye Center
- Eye Diseases Pictures Slideshow
- Pink Eye Slideshow Pictures
- Eyes and Eye Conditions Quiz
- Patient Comments: Black Eye - Experience
- Patient Comments: Black Eye - Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Black Eye - Treatment
- Patient Comments: Black Eye - Cause
- Patient Comments: Black Eye - Complications
- Find a local Doctor in your town
Black eye facts
- A black eye often results from injury to the face or the head, and is caused when blood and other fluids collect in the space around the eye. Swelling and dark discoloration result in a "black eye."
- Most black eyes are relatively minor injuries. Many heal on their own in a few days, but they may signify a more serious injury.
- The most common cause of a black eye is a blow to the eye, nose, or forehead.
- Pain and swelling are the most common signs and symptoms of a black eye.
- Call a doctor if the injured individual has changes in vision, severe pain, or swelling that does not go away, the swelling around the eyes is not related to an injury, there are signs of infection (for example, fever, warmth, redness, pus-like drainage), if the person has behavioral changes, forgetfulness or lethargy, nausea, vomiting and/or dizziness, loss of vision (especially double vision), or an inability to move the eye itself (i.e., unable to look in different directions).
- Home remedies for black eye include rest and ice applied early after the injury help to decrease swelling and pain. Do not use raw meat on an eye injury, this creates potential for infection.
- Avoid a black eye with basic injury prevention. Wear the appropriate protective gear for any athletic or work-related activity.
- Complications include traumatic iritis and uveitis, hyphema, glaucoma, orbital floor fracture (blowout fracture), and retinal detachment.
Black eye introduction
A black eye often results from injury to the face or the head, and is caused when blood and other fluids collect in the space around the eye. Swelling and dark discoloration result in a "black eye" – sometimes called a "shiner."
Most black eyes are relatively minor injuries. Many heal on their own in a few days, but they may signify a more serious injury.
Despite the name, "black eye," the eye itself is not usually injured. The tissues around the eye may be significantly discolored and swollen without any injury to the eye itself, like a bruise (ecchymosis) around the eye.
The skin around the eye is very loose, with mostly fat underneath it and fluid accumulates easily in this area. The skin around the eye is one of the first places to swell when the facial area is injured. Depending on the location and type of injury, one or both eyes may be affected. Injuries to the eyebrow, nose, and forehead area often result in black eyes because gravity pulls the blood and inflammatory fluid into the soft tissues under and around the eyes.
As a black eye heals, the swelling around the eye decreases, and the bruise gradually fades away. The bruising will usually start out a very dark purple, and as it fades, it may change to light purple, then greenish, then yellow before disappearing.
What causes a black eye?
The most common cause of a black eye is a blow to the eye, nose, or forehead. Depending on where the blow lands, one or both eyes may be affected.
A blow to the nose often causes both eyes to swell because the swelling from the nasal injury causes fluid to collect in the loose tissues of the eyelids.
Other causes of black eye include:
- surgical procedures to the face, such as a facelift, jaw surgery, or nose surgery;
- a certain type of head injury, called a basilar skull fracture, causes both eyes to swell and blacken; this condition is typically described as "raccoon eyes."
Other causes of swelling around the eye include (these conditions do not necessarily make the skin turn black and blue around the eye):
What are the signs and symptoms of a black eye?
Edema (swelling) and pain are the most common signs and symptoms of a black eye, and may be accompanied by discoloration caused by bruising.
Initially, the swelling and discoloration may be mild. The area around the eye often starts off slightly reddened, and then progresses to a darker shade and swelling increases. Some blurry vision or difficulty opening the eye may occur, but more serious visual problems are less common. Over the course of a few days, the area becomes lighter and the swelling decreases.
Signs of a more serious injury are double vision, loss of sight, or inability to move the eye. Loss of consciousness, blood or clear fluid coming out of the nose or the ears, blood on the surface of the eye itself, or persistent headache can also indicate a severe injury.
When should I call the doctor for a black eye?
Most black eyes are minor injuries that heal on their own in a few days with ice and OTC pain medications. Depending on the mechanism of injury and accompanying symptoms, an ophthalmologist might have to examine the injured eye to make sure that no significant injury to the eye has occurred.
Call a doctor if the patient:
- experiences changes in vision;
- has severe pain or swelling that does not go away;
- has swelling around the eyes that is not related to an injury;
- has signs of infection (for example, fever, warmth, redness, pus-like drainage),
- has behavioral changes,
- has forgetfulness or lethargy, or
- nausea, vomiting and/or dizziness.
Patients should consult a health care practitioner any time they are unsure about treatment or concerned about symptoms.
Some conditions require immediate medical care. Call 9-1-1 or get to an emergency department immediately in the following situations:
- the patient experiences changes in or loss of vision (especially double vision);
- an inability to move the eye itself (i.e., unable to look in different directions);
- any injury in which an object may have pierced the eye or may be inside the eyeball;
- if there is obvious blood in the eye itself;
- if there is deformity to the eye;
- fluid leaking from the eyeball;
- there are any lacerations (cuts) to the eye area, face, or head;
- the patient has signs of a serious head or facial injury;
- if the black eye is accompanied by broken bones or teeth;
- loss of consciousness;
- changes in behavior;
- nausea, vomiting and/or dizziness;
- inability to walk;
- blood or clear fluids coming out of the nose or the ears;
- patients who take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), or those with a history of bleeding problems such as hemophilia;
- swelling after a bee sting near the eye; or
- from a suspected infection of the eye.
Latest Eyesight News
Daily Health News
How is a black eye diagnosed?
For most black eyes, a doctor will perform a physical exam and will ask about the injury and look for any associated injuries or symptoms.
The physician will shine a light into the patient's eyes to look at the pupils and inside the eye itself for any injury, and to check for foreign bodies or abrasions on the eye. They will test the motion of the patient's eye (following the doctor's finger with his/her eyes), and examine the facial bones around the eye.
Depending on what is found, the doctor may perform additional testing. An X-ray or a CT scan may be performed if the doctor suspects a fracture to the bones of the face or around the eye (the orbit) or that something is inside the eye.
If there are any special concerns, the doctor may refer the patient to a specialist, such as an ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in eye care and surgery), for follow-up care.
What is the treatment for a black eye?
Home remedies for black eye include rest and ice applied early after the injury help to decrease swelling and pain.
Ice helps decrease swelling by constricting blood vessels, by decreasing fluid accumulation, and by cooling and numbing the area.
- Apply ice for 20 minutes every hour, for the first 24 hours (a package of frozen vegetables such as peas or corn can be used as it will conform to the shape of the face better than ice cubes).
- To avoid potential cold injury to the site, wrap the ice or frozen object in a cloth or use a commercial ice pack.
- Do not use raw meat on a black eye as putting potentially bacteria-laden meat on a mucous membrane or an open skin injury can be dangerous.
For simple, uncomplicated black eyes, the treatment prescribed by health care professionals is similar to home treatment:
- pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) (avoid taking aspirin (unless prescribed by your doctor or cardiologist for your heart] because this may increase bleeding);
- rest; and
- protection of the injured area.
Avoid possibly injurious activities until after the eye has healed.
For more complicated injuries, the patient may be referred to an appropriate specialist; such as an ophthalmologist, who can treat the patient's injuries to the eye itself, or an otorhinolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat [ENT]), or an oral/maxillofacial surgeon for fractures to the face.
What are the complications of black eye?
Black eye in itself usually is a minor condition that resolves on its own. Severe injuries, especially forceful blunt trauma to the eye area may result in complications.
Traumatic uveitis and iritis(iritis is a type of uveitis) results from blunt trauma to the eye. A black eye may be the first sign of this condition. Iritis generally affects only one eye. Signs and symptoms of uveitis (and iritis) may include:
- reddened eye (especially around the iris, the colored part of the eyeball);
- pain that increases with exposure to bright light;
- a small or irregularly shaped pupil;
- floating spots before the eyes; or
- blurred vision.
Any of these symptoms should be brought to the attention of a physician.
Hyphema is an accumulation of blood in the front (anterior) chamber of the eye following injury and can cause damage to the interior tissues of the eye. The amount of blood may be too small to see with the naked eye, or the entire front of the eye may fill with blood.
Glaucoma may also result from blunt trauma to the eye, and can occur immediately or years later. The force of the trauma can cause bleeding inside the eye which leads to an increase in eye pressure, and damages the optic nerve. Delayed onset glaucoma (angle recession glaucoma) can occur as scar tissue from the injury builds in the eye.
Orbital floor fracture (blowout fracture) may also occur as a result of the forceful blunt trauma to the eye. The force of the blow pushes the eyeball further into the eye socket, fracturing the very thin walls of bone that make up the eye socket. This can lead to pinching (entrapment) of the optic nerve and the muscles that move the eye. Loss of vision or double vision can result and must be treated emergently.
Retinal detachment can result in permanent vision loss. Trauma to the eye can lift or pull the retina from its normal position, lining the back of the eyeball. Symptoms include partial or total loss of vision or flashing lights or spots in the field of vision and must be treated immediately.
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter
How can I prevent a black eye?
Black eye injury can be avoided with basic injury prevention.
- Check the home for items that might cause a fall, such as throw rugs or objects on the floor (such as toys).
- Wear the appropriate protective gear for any athletic or work-related activity.
- Wear goggles or other eye protection when working, doing yard work, or other hobbies and sports that may be injurious to the eyes.
- Wear seat belts while driving and wear helmets when riding a motorcycle.
Eye Health Resources
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Glaucoma Research Foundation; "Traumatic Glaucoma."
eMedicine.com; "Facial Trauma, Orbital Floor Fractures (Blowout)."
National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health; "Retinal Detachment."
Medline Plus; "Eveitis."
Black Eye - Experience
Please describe your experience with a black eye.Post View 7 Comments
Black Eye - Symptoms
What additional symptoms did you experience with your black eye?Post View 2 Comments
Black Eye - Treatment
What was the treatment for your black eye?Post View 1 Comment
Black Eye - Cause
What was the cause of your black eye?Post View 7 Comments
Black Eye - Complications
What were the complications of your black eye?Post View 1 Comment
Top Black Eye Related Articles
Bee and Wasp Sting
Bees, wasps, and fire ants are related insects that belong to the Hymenoptera order. There are thousands of species of wasps found throughout the world. Common wasps are yellow jackets and hornets. Types of bees include honey bees, the Africanized honey bee (killer bee), and the bumble bee. There are four types of reactions to a bee or wasp sting;
- local reaction,
- systemic allergic reaction,
- toxic reaction, and
- delayed reaction.
Individuals who have a systemic or toxic reaction generally require immediate medical treatment to prevent anaphylactic reaction, and possibly death.
Blepharoplasty (Eyelid Surgery)Eyelid surgery, also called blepharoplasty, is a cosmetic procedure in which drooping of the lower and/or upper eyelids is reduced by removing excess skin, muscle, and fat. Complications of the procedure include bleeding, infection, dry eyes, an inability to fully close the eyes, eyelid skin that folds in or out abnormally, abnormal skin discoloration of the eyelids, and a pulled-down lower lid lash line or a possible loss of vision.
Broken Bone (Types of Bone Fractures)
A broken bone is a fracture. There are different types of fractures, such as:
- vertebral compression,
- compound, and
Symptoms of a broken bone include pain at the site of injury, swelling, and bruising around the area of injury. Treatment of a fracture depends on the type and location of the injury.
Brow Lift Cosmetic SurgeryA brow lift or forehead lift tightens the sagging skin in the forehead region. There are two methods of lifts: the classic lift and the endoscopic lift. Recovery from the brow lift procedure depends upon the method performed.
CAT ScanA CT scan is an X-ray procedure that combines many X-ray images with the aid of a computer to generate cross-sectional and three-dimensional images of internal organs and structures of the body. A CT scan is a low-risk procedure. Contrast material may be injected into a vein or the spinal fluid to enhance the scan.
Cuts, Scrapes and Puncture WoundsCuts, scrapes, and puncture wounds are common, and most people will experience one of these in their lifetime. Evaluating the injury, and thoroughly cleaning the injury is important. Some injuries should be evaluated by a doctor, and a tetanus shot may be necessary. Treatment will depend upon the severity of the injury.
First Aid Sprains/StrainsView this First Aid slideshow on Care and Pain Relief. See how to get pain relief if you've bumped your head, sprained your ankle, or had a bruise, strain, or some other minor injury.
Headaches can be divided into two categories: primary headaches and secondary headaches. Migraine headaches, tension headaches, and cluster headaches are considered primary headaches. Secondary headaches are caused by disease. Headache symptoms vary with the headache type. Over-the-counter pain relievers provide short-term relief for most headaches.
HivesHives, also called urticaria, is a raised, itchy area of skin that is usually a sign of an allergic reaction. The allergy may be to food or medications, but usually the cause of the allergy (the allergen) is unknown.
Nasal Airway SurgeryDeviated septum surgery (septoplasty) and turbinectomy (nasal airway surgery) is performed on individuals who have a deviated or crooked septum or enlarged tissues (turbinates) within the nose. The goal of surgery is to improve breathing, control nosebleeds, relieve sinus headaches, and promote drainage of the sinus cavities. Risks and complications of surgery should be discussed with the surgeon prior to surgery.
Plastic Surgery (Cosmetic Surgery)Cosmetic surgery and procedures include interventions to improve one's appearance and fight the effects of aging on the outside. Breast augmentation, eyelid surgery, and liposuction are examples of cosmetic surgical procedures. Botox injections, laser hair removal, and laser skin resurfacing are examples of cosmetic nonsurgical procedures.
Uveitis PictureUveitis (pronounced you-vee-EYE-tis) involves all inflammatory processes of the middle layers of the eye, also called the uveal tract or uvea. See a picture of Uveitis and learn more about the health topic.