A black eye is the
appearance of bruising around the eyes. This may occur when the small blood
vessels (capillaries) beneath the skin have broken and blood has leaked into
the surrounding tissue, creating discolorations. Black eye is also referred to
as eye bruises and bruising around the eyes.
A black eye is usually the
result of trauma to the head or face. It results in bleeding beneath the skin,
which causes discoloration or bruising. Most black eyes are not serious, but
sometimes can be an indicator of a medical emergency like a skull fracture.
Black eyes can appear
after some surgical procedures, such as nose surgery or a facelift. A black eye
may occur when blood, originating in the forehead or nose, settles by
gravitational effect underneath the eye. "Raccoon eyes" refers to
blood that settles underneath the eyes and is associated with a fracture in the
base of the skull.
Over the course of a few
days, the black and blue color of the bruises around the eyes fades to yellow
or green as the blood breaks down and is reabsorbed into the surrounding
tissues. Depending on the amount of blood that has collected within the skin,
the tissues may require up to two weeks to return to normal color.
It’s important to be aware that unexplained bruising in
someone you know may be a sign of domestic violence or abuse. Your health
providers are required by law to ask you questions to make sure you are safe in
your domestic situation.
Conditions that are likely associated with a black
- broken nose
- dengue fever
- hemophilia A
- head injury
- factor II
- factor V
- factor VII
- factor X
- shaken baby syndrome
- skull fracture
- von Willebrand disease
If you seek medical
treatment for a black eye, your doctor will perform a basic examination. They will
also ask how the injury occurred and inquire about additional related injuries.
Your vision will be tested
by shining a light into your eyes. The doctor will also ask you to follow his
finger with your eyes.
If it is suspected that
you have a fracture on any part of the skull, a CT scan and X-ray of the face and head will be done. If an
injury to the eye itself is suspected, you will be referred to an
ophthalmologist. The doctor may put a dye in your eye to test for eyeball
abrasions. If a head injury is suspected, you will be referred to a neurosurgeon.
If fractures of the face are suspected, you will be referred to an ENT
eyes due to a minor injury can be treated with rest, ice, and pain medication.
A follow-up visit with your doctor will be suggested if you have any visual
changes or lingering pain. If swelling and pain accompany bruising, apply a
cold compress for 20 minutes on, and 20 minutes off, until the swelling is
reduced. When the swelling is reduced, you may apply a warm compress to help
promote reabsorption of the blood.
For any pain and
throbbing, you may take a pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. You should also avoid putting any pressure over
the affected area.
There are many home
remedies you can use to treat your black eye. It is important that you use ice
or an ice pack on the eye. People often like to use frozen packs of raw meat on
their eye. Avoid doing this, as these packs may contain harmful bacteria.
Arnica is a good herbal
remedy to reduce swelling, while 5 tablespoons of melted Vaseline with cayenne
pepper serves as a good healing ointment. Be careful because this will burn.
Vitamins C and K will also promote healing and reduce swelling.
Black Eye in Children and Toddlers
Small children will need a
cold compress placed on their eye for 15 minutes at a time throughout the day.
They may also be required to wear an eye shield because the swelling can force
the eye shut.
At home, hold your child’s
head higher than their heart for a day or two. Try to keep them from being too active.
Also, keep your child from rubbing their eye.
When to Seek Immediate Medical Treatment
Black eyes are accompanied by an assortment of
symptoms that could require medical attention.
A black eye may be the repercussion of a facial
fracture. You need to seek immediate medical attention for any broken bones on
your face or skull.
If headaches persist or there is a loss of vision
or consciousness, your black eye may be the symptom of a concussion or
fracture. Other symptoms of a concussion include:
- memory lapses
Other serious concerns are blood or clear fluid
draining from the nose or ear. Blood on the surface of the eyeball is also a
cause for concern. This can be a sign of a ruptured eyeball or damaged blood
vessels in the eye. This may cause additional swelling and infection that can
make your eye immobile and blur your vision.
Sometimes black eyes can occur without trauma
affecting the eye. If you have bad nasal allergies, you can get something
called “allergic shiners.” These shiners may cause dark circles or the
appearance of a black eye because of the blood flow being slightly hindered.
The small veins under the eye will pool with blood and enlarge because the
blood is getting back to the heart more slowly.
Although highly unlikely, a black eye in a child
without any sign of trauma can be an early symptom of myeloid leukemia.
Most cases of black eye
can be treated at home with ice, rest, and pain relievers. A black eye can last
anywhere from one to two weeks as the bruising heals and the blood is slowly
absorbed back into the skin.
Things to avoid while
recovering from a black eye are:
- applying too
- putting heat
on the affected area
- playing sports
or being overly active in a way that sets you up for further injury