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If you’ve ever had a black eye, you know it isn’t a pretty sight. And whether that shiner happened during a playground brawl, a sporting accident, or from simple sinus pressure, your black eye can be painful too. Why do we get black eyes, and should you worry about long-term effects?
What Causes a Black Eye?
A black eye can occur if there is trauma or injury to the skin around the eyes. This skin is very loose and one of the first places to swell as fluid builds up in the body. While blunt trauma is the most common cause of a black eye, facial surgery, such as a facelift, and even sinusitis or severe allergies could cause black, swollen eyes.
A black eye can also be a sign of a more serious injury to the eyes or skull, and any damage to the eyeball itself should be evaluated by your doctor. Bleeding within the eye, called a hyphema, could impact your cornea and vision. If you suffer a head injury and notice the skin around your eyes are black, this could indicate a skull fracture or something even more serious.
Symptoms of a Black Eye
Swelling and a discoloration of deep purple or blue are definite signs of a black eye, but there are other symptoms that should serve as a warning:
• Pain around the eyes
• Swelling around the eyes
• A bruise around the eyes that may be red at first, then turns darker to purple, yellow, green, or black
• Blurred vision after blunt trauma to the face
If you experience any of the symptoms below related to eye trauma or a black eye, you should seek immediate medical attention:
• Double vision or vision loss
• Blood on the white or colored parts of the eye
• Eyeball pain or an inability to move your eyeball
• Severe headache or an unusual sensitivity to light
• An open cut on your eyeball
• Fainting or loss of consciousness
• Blood or fluid coming from the ears or nose
Black Eye Examination
Your doctor should be able to diagnose a black eye through a simple exam in which he or she will check the impacted area and your vision and test your eye movement. Your doctor will also assess pupil dilation by shining a light in your eye. If a bone fracture is suspected, your doctor may order an X-ray or CT scan.
Black Eye Treatment
The good news about a black eye is that, in most cases, it’s not a serious issue, and it will usually go away without extensive treatment. But it also takes time to heal – there’s no magic trick to make a black eye disappear as quickly as we’d like. Below are a few black eye treatment options that will help the healing process:
1. Apply something cold – an ice pack or package of frozen vegetables – to the affected area to help reduce swelling and constrict blood vessels, which in turn stops the bleeding below the skin. Apply the cold compress for 10 minutes at a time (10 minutes on and 10 minutes off) to prevent damage to the skin around your eye from the cold ice.
2. 24 to 48 hours after the injury, switch to warm compresses, which promote circulation, by holding a wet, warm washcloth on the affected area. Do not use a heating pad as that provides dry heat that is usually too hot.
3. Keep your head elevated to limit blood flow to the impacted area. This will help limit swelling and extra pooling of blood that could darken your black eye.
4. Rest well and often. Try to aim for seven to eight hours of sleep, which allows your body to restore your muscular and immune systems. Also, avoid intense exercise that could put stress on your body.
5. Avoid putting pressure on your eye that could aggravate the damaged blood vessels and prolong your black eye.