A black eye, also known in medical terms as a periorbital hematoma, is a common result of injuries to the face.

What Exactly Is a Black Eye?

This may seem like a ridiculous question.  However, the classic black eye is somewhat of a misnomer.  With a black eye, the eye itself is not necessarily injured, although depending on the nature of the injury, it may be.  The black eye refers to the bruising that surrounds the eye.

The skin surrounding the eye is delicate and it rests upon the hard bone tissue of the skull.  Because of this, blunt force applied to this area of the face causes bruising easily. The thin and baggy nature of the skin surrounding the eye allows blood to easily pool within the skin tissue.  Essentially, a black eye is just a bruised eye.

What Causes a Black Eye?

The most common cause of a black eye is blunt force trauma to the facial area.  This can happen from a fall, being hit in the face by an object, or through an assault.

The trauma doesn’t necessarily have to be applied at the eye socket area, however.  People can develop black eyes from being struck on the nose or forehead.  In these cases, there is a chance for both eyes to be affected.

Black eyes can also be caused by surgical procedures performed upon the face, such as a facelift.

How Long Does a Black Eye Last?

Most black eyes should resolve themselves within a week.  During the first couple of days, the body will reabsorb the blood, causing a lightening of the black eye.  Green and yellow splotches will be left behind where the darker blood spots once were.  This is due to pigments in the blood that are left over in the tissue.  These splotches will also fade within a few days.

A black eye that refuses to heal may be an indication of a more serious problem, such as a skull fracture, especially if both eyes are affected.

How to Get Rid of a Black Eye

Unfortunately, there isn’t any way to remove a black eye.  Like any other bruise, the only thing to do is to wait for it to heal.

However, cosmetics may be used to hide the black eye.  Concealer is especially helpful as this product is specifically designed to hide blemishes.  Make sure that the concealer matches your skin tone before wearing it in public.

How to Treat a Black Eye

Black eyes very rarely require medical attention outside of home remedies.

Applying an ice pack can help alleviate pain and swelling.  Taking an anti-inflammatory over the counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen, can help as well.

Switching to warm compresses a couple days after the initial injury may help speed up the healing process.

A black eye may also be accompanied by bursting of blood vessels in the eye called subconjunctival hemorrhage.  This causes blood to leak into the sclera, or whites, of the eyes.  While this may appear frightening or dramatic, the condition usually resolves itself without medical attention.  It would be wise, however, to have a medical professional evaluate the eye to rule out more serious eye injuries.  Avoid pain medications such as aspirin that thin the blood if this complication develops, as it may make the bleeding within the eye worse.

A common home remedy for black eyes is applying raw meat to the affected eye.  However, this is not only ineffective, but may cause any accompanying cuts or scrapes in the area to become infected.  Additionally, the eye is an orifice, which would allow any bacteria within the meat to enter the body.

While black eyes usually resolve on their own, experiencing certain symptoms accompanied by a black eye are cause for concern.  If you experience any of the following, you should contact your doctor.

  • If the injury that causes the black eye causes the person to become unconscious, you should call 911.
  • Two black eyes following a head injury.  This is an indication of a skull fracture.
  • If you cannot move the eyeball, or if the eyeball itself also hurts.
  • There is a cut to the eye, or if the eye is bleeding.
  • You experience double vision, blurred vision, floating spots or lights, or any other vision change.
  • Persistent headache.
  • Blood or clear liquid draining from either the nose or ears.
  • Pain is severe beyond what is expected for the injury.  This may be an indication of a fracture.

Some of these conditions will need to be evaluated by an eye care specialist.  They may cause permanent partial or total vision loss if they are left untreated.  These conditions warrant a trip to the emergency room.

Recovering from a Black Eye

Black eyes rarely cause long-term problems.  Since the injury is usually mild and heals quickly, many people are able to resume normal activities within a few days.

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