A ”black eye” is a bruise to the eyelid skin caused by blunt trauma to the eye region. Like many bruises, a “shiner” may be nothing to worry about and might disappear on its own in a few days.
In some cases, however, a black eye is a warning sign of more serious injury to the eye or to the skull. Any damage to the eyeball that causes it to become red and swollen must be promptly evaluated by a doctor or an eye specialist. Blunt force eye injuries, as happens in fighting, competitive sports, and ordinary accidents, could involve an unsuspected detached retina, internal bleeding, or other serious problems. A fracture involving the delicate bones around the eye may trap an eye muscle or soft tissues. An orbital fracture could damage the optic nerve and permanently damage eyesight. If so, emergency surgery may be required to correct the condition.
Most black eyes are the result of blunt trauma that causes bleeding beneath the thin eyelid skin, producing the characteristic black and blue discoloration. A fracture deep inside the skull can also blacken both eyes, even though the eye area itself was not injured. People with sinusitis from allergies sometimes get “allergic shiners” — darkening under the eyes caused by inflamed and engorged blood vessels.
- A black eye often results from injury to the face or the head, and is caused when blood and other fluids collect in the space around the eye. Swelling and dark discoloration result in a “black eye.”
- Most black eyes are relatively minor injuries. Many heal on their own in a few days, but they may signify a more serious injury.
- The most common cause of a black eye is a blow to the eye, nose, or forehead.
- Pain and swelling are the most common signs and symptoms of a black eye.
- Call a doctor if the injured individual has changes in vision, severe pain, or swelling that does not go away, the swelling around the eyes is not related to an injury, there are signs of infection (for example, fever, warmth, redness, pus-like drainage), if the person has behavioral changes, forgetfulness or lethargy, nausea, vomiting and/or dizziness, loss of vision (especially double vision), or an inability to move the eye itself (i.e., unable to look in different directions).
- Home remedies for black eye include rest and ice applied early after the injury help to decrease swelling and pain. Do not use raw meat on an eye injury, this creates potential for infection.
- Avoid a black eye with basic injury prevention. Wear the appropriate protective gear for any athletic or work-related activity.
- Complications include traumatic iritis and uveitis, hyphema, glaucoma, orbital floor fracture (blowout fracture), and retinal detachment.