Eye Injury (Black Eye)

What is ecchymosis or bruising of the eye?

Ecchymosis is also called a black eye. It usually happens from an injury 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?

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. Wrap the bag of vegetables or ice cubes in a cloth so you won't damage the skin. Never apply a raw steak to the black eye (as seen in movies). Bacteria on raw meat increases the risk for infection. This type of treatment does not 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 bruising may appear to spread and go down the cheek or to the other eye. This is normal. Talk with your healthcare provider or an ophthalmologist if the bruising and swelling doesn't resolve on its own in a few days or if you have vision changes.

Be certain to keep the affected eye protected from further injury. Wear protective eye gear for sports or occupations that endanger the eyes. Don't do activities where the eye can be hit. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Chris Haupert MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Whitney Seltman MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2023
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