Typical treatment for black eyes starts with ice or cold compresses, followed later by hot compresses, and medication that will stem pain and reduce swelling.
Black eyes are the result of blunt force or trauma around the eye socket, including to the nose.
The blackness is bruising or an accumulation of blood around the socket, which has little muscle and fatty tissue and is an easy place for blood to pool.
Swelling and the accompanied darkness around the eye typically goes away within two weeks.
A periorbital hematoma, or a black eye as it is commonly called, refers to the bruising around your eye stemming from an injury to your face. A black eye is characterized by a dark-colored bruise that is brought on by the accumulation of fluid and blood in the tissues surrounding your eye following a blow to your head.
A black eye is caused by blunt force or trauma around your eye socket, including your nose. The injury causes burst capillaries and hemorrhaging.
The area around your eye socket lacks muscle and has fatty tissue, thus providing space for blood and fluid to accumulate.
Black eyes are commonly associated with contact sports such as boxing, MMA or hockey, but can also be the result of assault or a fall. In some cases, a black can be the result of dental work.
Blood and fluid from some dental procedures can accumulate beneath your tissues, including the tissues around your eyes. Other causes of black eyes include facial surgery such as nose surgery, facelifts, and jaw surgeries.
Treating a Black Eye with Home Remedies
Extensive medical attention is typically not necessary unless there is trauma to your eye. Below are recommended home-remedy treatment options for a black eye:
The first line of treatment for a black eye involves applying an ice pack to the affected area. Ice helps to reduce swelling and pain. It also constricts your capillaries, thus slowing blood flow into the area and reducing internal bleeding.
Using gentle pressure, place a cloth filled with ice or a cold compress to the area around your eye for about 10 minutes to 20 minutes. Do not place ice directly on your skin. Also, you have to take care not to apply pressure on the eye itself.
It is recommended that you apply a cold compress as soon as possible (within the first 24 hours) following the injury for optimal efficacy. You have to repeat this process several times a day until the swelling subsides.
Hand in hand with ice-pack treatments are over-the-counter pain medications such at ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin.
Doctors approve of the combination of ibuprofen, such as Advil, for pain and acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, for swelling. They typically advise patients to “stay ahead of the pain” by not waiting until pain returns for subsequent doses.
After swelling around your eye has subsided after several days, you can apply a warm compress. A warm compress helps reduce pain. It also aids the healing process as it improves blood flow to the affected areas.
Fold up a towel and place it in a bowl of hot water. Wring out the towel and apply to the affected area. You can repeat this process several times a day.
Medical Treatments for Black Eyes
At times, an eye or nose injury can be severe enough to warrant attention from medical professionals, including a trip to an urgent care or emergency room facility. It can mean a prescription for painkillers that are stronger than what you can buy over the counter in a drugstore.
In rare cases, it can also mean surgery, such as the re-setting of broken nose or a fracture of any of the bones around the eye.
If a black eye is severe enough, doctors can escalate the level of painkillers to use beyond ibuprofen and acetaminophen. That is, opioids.
So-called “weak opioids” include codeine and dihydrocodeine.
“Strong opioids” are not generally prescribed for black eyes. Strong opioids include:
Surgery is not a typical treatment for a black eye because most black eyes stem from non-life-threatening trauma. However, structural damage to bones should be repaired.
Also, because the eyes are key component of our looks and personalities, cosmetic fixes to the face might be desired by those whose faces are misshapen by the trauma that caused the eye to blacken.
How Long It Takes Black Eyes to Heal
Generally, a black eye takes approximately two weeks to heal completely, but there will be significant improvements after a week. However, it may take more or less time depending on several factors. These factors include the severity of the injury, your treatment of the black eye, your general health, and your age.
Stages of Healing
As your black eye heals and your body reabsorbs the blood beneath your skin, the affected area will undergo several stages. At the time of your injury, the affected area will appear reddish as blood accumulates under your skin.
After a day or two, as the accumulated blood decomposes and your body reabsorbs it, various pigments will be released. This will cause the now swollen area to have a purple, blue or black discoloration, or a combination of the three. As your body clears the blood from the affected area, your eye will gradually develop a yellow-green coloration.
The swelling will also subside considerably. This occurs at around the one-week mark. As you approach the two-week point, the affected area may have a yellowish to light brown coloration. After about two weeks, the black eye should have completely healed.
When to See a Doctor
Most times, a black eye is not a cause of major concern and resolves itself within a week or two. However, if the injury is extensive, your black eye may worsen and require medical treatment before it can resolve.
This will be the case if the area around both your eyes has been injured (Raccoon eyes), which is often an indication of a skull fracture. If both your eye turn black a few days after your injury, it is advisable to seek medical assistance.
You should also see a doctor if you have had a head injury before getting your black eye, you have a bleeding disorder (hemophilia), or you are under blood-thinning medication (warfarin). The same applies if you experience bleeding within your eye. This is a serious condition known as hyphema that can impair your vision and even damage your cornea.
Note that head trauma and eye injuries can also coincide with a black eye. Some symptoms that may indicate a serious injury that needs medical attention include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Severe pain or swelling
- Loss of vision
- Double vision
- Blurry vision
- Inability to move your eye
- Persistent headaches or migraines
- Blood on the eye surface
- The affected area is leaking pus
If you notice or experience any of the above signs and symptoms or your black eye does not resolve within three weeks, you should see a doctor immediately.
How can I make my black eye go away faster?
Proper self-care can help your black eye go away faster. Frequently apply an ice pack or cold compress as soon as possible after your injury. Following this up with a warm compress once the swelling subsides. Also, avoid rubbing the affected eye to protect it from further injury.
How long do black eyes last?
Generally, a black eye will resolve on its own within two weeks. For some people, however, it may last up to three weeks.
Should you put raw steak on your eye?
It is not advisable to place raw steak on your eye if you have a black eye. There is no evidence of this anecdotal home remedy being effective for treating black eyes.
Raw meat was likely used as a treatment option when ice packs were not available commercially. Also, even if frozen, raw meat may contain bacteria that can cause infection if they get into your eye.
Black eye (October 26, 2020). National Health Service.
5 Things to Know About a Black Eye (June 27, 2016). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
What is Black Eye? (March 23, 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Black eye (July 2020). Health Direct.
Assessment of the age of bruise by their healing (August 2018). Indian Journal of Forensic and Community Medicine.
Eye Injury (Black Eye). Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Recognizing and Treating Eye Injuries (March 04, 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Last Updated March 1, 2022
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