More often than not, black eye injuries are relatively minor, resulting from a blow to the eye, nose, or forehead. Blood and other fluid collect in the space around the eye, which causes swelling and the typical dark discoloration that gives “black eye” its name.
Can I Treat My Black Eye at Home?
In most cases, yes. Black eyes do not typically indicate an injury to the eye itself. However, if you’re experiencing any of the warning signs listed below, you should schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist to confirm that your eye is not damaged. In more extreme cases, you should visit the Emergency Room as soon as possible.
What Can I Do To Treat My Black Eye?
Pain, discoloration (bruising), and swelling are the most common symptoms of a black eye and can be minimized by applying a cold compress immediately after the injury. The cold compress can be an ice pack or bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel. Although Hollywood often portrays using a cold steak, we do not advise doing so; raw meat is an excellent source of bacteria and could cause an eye infection. Apply the cold compress gently (but firmly) to the injured site for 20 minutes each hour as often as possible throughout the first day and keep your head elevated until your black eye heals. If your eye is swollen shut, don’t force it open; be patient, continue applying the compress, and the swelling will go down.
You can also take over-the-counter pain reliever (ibuprofen) as needed for discomfort, but stay away from aspirin. Aspirin acts as a blood thinner and will worsen the bleeding (and therefore, the swelling and the bruising) and increase your recovery time.
How Long Will It Take for My Black Eye to Heal?
Depending on the severity of the injury, a black eye can take anywhere from one to three weeks to heal. While most black eyes heal on their own, if you’re not seeing signs of healing after the first week (minimal pain and swelling, the bruise changing colors from blue-black to yellowish brown and fading) or if it is not fully healed after three weeks, you should make an appointment with your doctor so they can evaluate the injury’s severity.
When Should I See an Ophthalmologist?
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms below, we recommend having your ophthalmologist examine your eye to ensure it’s not damaged.
- Severe pain and/or swelling that does not go away after a few days
- Changes in vision
- Signs of infection (fever, warmth, redness, pus-like drainage)
- Double vision
If you don’t already have an ophthalmologist, you can schedule an appointment with one of our doctors by calling 865-579-3920 for both emergency appointments and appointments during normal business hours.
When Should I Seek Emergency Medical Attention?
In extreme cases, emergency medical attention is required after sustaining a black eye injury. Black eye complications may include traumatic iritis and uveitis, hyphema, glaucoma, orbital floor fracture, and retinal detachment. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms below and cannot schedule an appointment with your doctor within 24 hours, visit your nearest urgent-care clinic.
- Double vision or loss of vision
- Inability to move the eye itself (i.e. look around in different directions)
- Blood in the eye or fluid leaking from the eye
- If the eyeball is punctured or if there is any deformity to the eye
- Lacerations (cuts) on the eyelid or eye area
The symptoms below indicate a serious head and/or facial injury and should be treated by an emergency medical professional immediately.
- Broken bones or teeth
- Blood or clear fluid draining from the nose or ears
- Loss of consciousness
- Behavioral changes (mood swings, forgetfulness, lethargy)
- Inability to walk
- Nausea or vomiting
Did you know?
Only about 15% of black eyes are actually caused by fighting or violent assaults. Most black eye injuries happen accidentally during contact sports, while making home repairs, or at work.
We recommend always using protective eyewear when participating in any activity where there is an increased risk for eye injury. If you do have an accident and experience any of the eye trauma symptoms listed above, do not hesitate to contact our office and request an emergency appointment.