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Black eye


Black eye on man in hospital

A simple black eye consists of bruising caused by bleeding beneath the skin near the eye. The skin there is thin and delicate, so a bruise around the eye is more pronounced. The majority of black eyes are minor and fade away within a few days, but sometimes they can be indicative of a more serious injury to the eye or skull.

What are the symptoms of a black eye?

In most cases, black eyes don’t just sneak up – people know when they’re on the way to developing a shiner by being on the receiving end of a blunt force trauma. Sometimes the bruising is immediately noticeable, other times it develops over a day or two. Symptoms include:

  • Pain and swelling around the eyelid
  • Yellow, green, blue, purple or black discolouration around the eyelid
  • Sometimes there will be broken blood vessels in the white of the eye.

Is a black eye the sign of something more serious?

A deep fracture in the skull can cause both eyes to turn black. A head injury is always a medical emergency and should be attended to immediately. Symptoms may include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Double vision
  • Loss of sight or blurred vision
  • Visible floating spots
  • Blood can be seen in the white area of the eye
  • An abnormality in the eye
  • Persistent headaches.

Some people with chronic sinusitis can get darkening underneath eyes from a severe allergic reaction. Seek treatment for the cause rather than the symptom.

What to do about a black eye

A simple ‘shiner’ can be treated by gently applying an ice pack to the area around the eye. This can help reduce swelling and internal bleeding by constricting blood vessels. Painkillers may also help to ease the discomfort – but don’t take ibroprufen, as it can cause an increase in bleeding. Putting a ‘steak’ over the eye (as Sylvester Stallone did in Rocky) is not a treatment, it’s simply a waste of a good steak.

Preventing a black eye

Although accidents happen, there are certain situations where precautions should be taken. Wear protective eye gear when working around the home or playing athletics. If a profession involves physical work (such as building or landscaping), there is more chance of suffering a bump or a fall, so there’s a need to always take extra care to avoid eye damage. Accidents can happen, but prevention is ultimately the best course of action.

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The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your ophthalmologist for specific medical advice.

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