A black eye is likely to occur after sustaining an injury to the head or the face. Even minimal impact to the face can result to an undesirable “shiner”. The distinctive black-and-blue color and swelling occurs once the small blood vessels in the head and face break while blood and other fluids accumulate in the space surrounding the eye.
Most cases of black eyes are considered as minor bruises that heal on their own in 3-5 days. As the bruise starts to heal, the inflammation that surrounds the eye reduces and the color of the skin often turns black to blue and green to yellow.
Oftentimes, a black eye is a warning indication of a serious face, head or eye injury. If an individual ends up with 2 black eyes after sustaining a direct blow to the head, it should not be simply ignored since this can indicate a serious injury such as a skull fracture. Even though uncommon, a black eye might also be an indication of damage to the eyeball.
Signs and symptoms of a black eye
- Swelling and pain around the eyelid and eye socket and the eye might even swell shut in some cases
- Discoloration surrounding the eyelid and socket that starts as mild redness and later on progress to black and bluish bruising.
- Momentary blurring of vision
- Mild headache or neck pain after sustaining a blow to the head
When to seek medical care
If an individual has any of the following conditions along with a black eye, it is vital to seek medical care to rule out a possible case of a serious eye or head injury.
- Severe or continuous pain
- Changes or loss of vision that does not clear up quickly
- Any injury caused by a foreign object in the eye
- Swelling or inflammation that persists more than 48 hours
- Blood that pools or accumulates in the eye
- Lacerations or cuts in or near the eye
- Deformity in the eye socket, jaw or face that might indicate a fracture
- Drainage of fluid from the mouth, nose, eye or ears
- Behavioral changes or confusion
- Missing or broken teeth
- Indications of concussion or other serious head injuries due to head trauma
Home care for a black eye
Most cases heal over time within a few days, but there are measures to hasten the healing and minimize the pain.
Instruct the individual to stop activity and apply an ice pack wrapped with a thin cloth on the area around the eye.
- Do not apply direct pressure on the eyeball
- Provide pain medications to reduce the inflammation and swelling as well as reduce the pain
- While sleeping, keep the head in a raised position by using pillows to minimize the swelling at night time.
- Continue with the application of cold several times throughout the day until the swelling subsides
- Monitor for any warning indications of a serious head injury for up to 48 hours
- Allow the affected eye to fully heal before resuming sports.