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Eye Injury (Black Eye)

What is ecchymosis or bruising of the eye?

Ecchymosis, or more commonly known as a “black eye," usually happens from some type of trauma to the eye, causing the tissue around the eye to become bruised. Your healthcare provider will examine the eye closely to make sure there's no damage to the eye itself.

What is the treatment for a black eye?

Specific treatment for a black eye will be determined by your healthcare provider based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the injury

  • Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the injury

  • Your opinion or preference

Most black eyes heal completely and don't cause any damage to the eye. In an uncomplicated injury, black eyes are treated with self-care at home. Treatment may include:

  • Cold compresses to the eye for the first 24 hours. An ice pack can be applied to the eye for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, once every hour. A bag of frozen vegetables or ice cubes can also be used. Be certain to wrap the bag of vegetables or ice cubes in a cloth to avoid damaging the skin. Never apply a raw steak to the black eye (as seen in movies). The bacteria on raw meat increases the risk of infection. In addition, this type of treatment has not been shown to be of any help. 

  • Warm compresses to the eye after the first 24 hours

  • Continued compresses until the swelling stops

  • Keep the head elevated to help decrease the amount of swelling

It's important to know that the swelling and bruise may appear to spread and go down the cheek or to the other eye. This is normal. Talk with your healthcare provider if the bruising and swelling doesn't resolve on its own.

Be certain to keep the affected eyes protected from further injury. Avoid activities where the eye can be hit. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Haupert, Christopher L., MD
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2017
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