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Black eye

5-minute read

Key facts

  • A black eye is a bruise in the tissues around your eye.
  • The skin around your eye may look swollen, with a blue or purple colour.
  • There are different causes of black eyes, such as trauma to your face.
  • If you get a black eye, it's best to see a doctor to rule out any other issues.
  • There are ways to help your black eye heal.

What is a black eye?

A black eye is a bruise in the tissues around your eye. A black eye is also known as periorbital haematoma. Most black eyes will heal on their own in a few days.

What are the symptoms of a black eye?

If you have a black eye, you may notice:

  • the skin around your eye turns blue or purple (bruising)
  • the skin around your eye may be swollen

This is caused by broken blood vessels under your skin. After a few days, your bruises will fade to yellow or green.

The white of your eye might also be bright red from bleeding on the surface of the eye. This is not usually serious.

Sometimes you might also have bleeding inside your eye. This is a medical emergency that needs treatment.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes a black eye?

The most common cause of a black eye is an injury that affects the area around your eye. Eye injuries or trauma may include a knock, hit, or impact.

Eye trauma can be caused by:

  • an accident
  • an assault
  • contact during sport
  • walking into something

Other causes of a black eye include:

  • facial surgery (for example, cosmetic surgery or nasal surgery)
  • a skull fracture (usually causing a black eye in both eyes)

When should I see my doctor?

If you have a black eye, it's a good idea to see your doctor as soon as you can. They can rule out any other serious eye issues.

You should seek medical help right away if you lost consciousness when you received the black eye. A doctor can rule out any head injuries.

You should also seek immediate medical help if you have a black eye as well as:

  • loss of vision or changes to your vision
  • severe eye pain or headaches that don't go away
  • bleeding from your eye or inside your eye
  • nausea, vomiting, dizziness or lethargy
  • loss of consciousness or fainting

If your eye becomes infected or has not healed after 2 weeks, you should also see a doctor.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

How is a black eye diagnosed?

To diagnose a black eye your doctor will:

  • check your vision
  • examine your eyes
  • apply a cover to your eye if needed

Your doctor can also refer you for other tests, such as a CT scan, if needed.

They can also refer you for further help if needed, such as an:

How is a black eye treated?

Black eyes normally get better by themselves. However, there are things you can do to help it heal.

Cold and heat packs

You can apply a cold pack to your eye. If you don't have a cold pack try a bag of frozen peas, wrapped in a tea towel.

Place the cold compress over the area as soon as possible. Keep it in place for 15 to 20 minutes every hour, while you are awake. Try to do this for the first 24 hours after getting a black eye to reduce swelling.

Never put a steak on a black eye. This can increase your risk of infection.

After the first 24 hours, you can swap the cold compresses for a warm — but not hot — compress. This increases blood flow to the area.

If it's comfortable, you can also massage gently around the eye area, but not the eye itself.

Pain relief

You can also ask your doctor about over-the-counter medicines to help with pain relief. Avoid aspirin, as it thins the blood and could make your bruising worse.

If you have a black eye and take aspirin regularly, talk to your doctor.

There is some evidence that hirudoid cream can help a black eye when applied 3 times a day, for 5 days.

Can a black eye be prevented?

You can prevent injury to your eyes by using eye protection, such as safety glasses .

If you have a black eye, it is important to protect it. Avoid sports or other activities that could further injure your eye.

Complications of a black eye

Depending on the cause of your black eye, you may get complications such as:

  • reduced vision
  • bleeding inside your eye

Resources and Support

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2023

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