The Best Treatment Tips for a Black Eye

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A black eye is common after an injury to the face or the head. Even a minor blow to the face can result in a large, angry-looking "shiner." The swelling and trademark black-and-blue color occurs when small blood vessels in the face and head break. As a result, blood and other fluids collect in the space around the eye.

The majority of black eyes are relatively minor bruises that heal on their own. They get better in about three to five days. As the bruise heals, the swelling around the eye decreases. The skin color often goes from black and blue to green and yellow. Sometimes, though, a black eye is a warning sign of a more serious head, face, or eye injury.

This article discusses the best form of treatment for a black eye. It covers symptoms, treatment, and when to see a doctor.

 Verywell / Lara Antal

Two black eyes after a blow to the head shouldn't be taken lightly. It may mean you have a severe head injury such as a skull fracture. While rare, a black eye may also mean you have damage to the eyeball itself. 

Black Eye Symptoms

A simple black eye comes with relatively few symptoms. Other than the nasty-looking bruise, they're typically mild. Symptoms include:

  • Pain and swelling around the eyelid and eye socket that can be severe enough for the eye to swell shut
  • Discoloration around the eyelid and eye socket, often beginning as simple redness and progressing to black-and-blue bruising
  • Blurred vision for a short time
  • Mild headaches or neck pain, often occurring after a blow to the head

When to See a Doctor or Go to the Hospital

An injury to the eye or head can sometimes cause a black eye along with more serious problems. If you have any of the following symptoms along with a black eye, you should get medical attention. It will rule out a serious injury:

  • Vision changes or vision loss that doesn't clear up quickly
  • Severe or persistent pain
  • Swelling that continues beyond 48 hours
  • Any injury caused by an object in the eye
  • Blood pooling in the eye
  • Two black eyes, which can be a sign of a skull fracture
  • Cuts or lacerations in or near the eye
  • Any deformity in the eye socket, face, or jaw that may indicate a fracture
  • Broken or missing teeth
  • Behavior changes or confusion
  • Fluid draining from the nose, mouth, ears, or eye
  • Signs of concussion or other serious head injuries that may have occurred from head trauma

Home Treatment

Most black eyes will heal on their own within a few days. But you can help speed healing and reduce pain by taking the following actions:

  • Stop any activity. Allow the eye to heal before going back to playing sports.
  • Apply ice wrapped in a thin cloth to the area around the eye. You can also use a cold compress or a bag of frozen vegetables.
  • Avoid putting direct pressure on the eyeball itself.
  • Keep the ice pack on the area for 15 minutes at a time every waking hour for the first 24 hours.
  • Keep your head elevated while sleeping by propping it up with an extra pillow.
  • Take pain medication to help reduce swelling. It will also reduce inflammation and decrease pain. Stay away from aspirin because it can increase bleeding.
  • Continue to apply ice several times a day until the swelling goes down.

Continue to check for any warning signs of a serious head injury for up to 48 hours.

Should You Put Raw Steak on Your Black Eye?

You've seen it in the movies, but there's no evidence that putting raw steak on a black eye helps it heal any faster. In fact, putting raw meat on any contusion or open wound is a good way to wind up with an infection. Stick with ice.

Summary

Getting a black eye is pretty common when you experience a face or head injury. There are small blood vessels in your face and head. When those blood vessels break, it causes black-and-blue bruising around your eyes.

Most black eyes heal on their own. But you can speed up healing by using at-home treatments. One common treatment is applying ice to your black eye.

In rare cases, a black eye may be a sign that you have a more serious injury. For example, if you have two black eyes, it may mean you have a skull fracture. Visit your doctor or the hospital if you believe you have a severe injury.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Ophthalmology. What is a black eye?

  2. American Academy of Ophthalmology. 5 things to know about a black eye.

  3. Murchison AP. Black Eye. Merck Manual. merckmanuals.com

  4. Boyd K. American Academy of Ophthalmology. 5 Things to Know About a Black Eye. aao.org