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How To Treat a Black Eye

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Updated May 20, 2014

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Paul Viant/The Image Bank/Getty Images
Black eyes are caused by bruising of the skin and fat around the eye bones (orbits). Most of the time, black eyes are minor injuries that, like any bruise, will fade with time and disappear.

Black eyes can also be a sign of a more significant injury - especially if both eyes are black following an injury to the head.

Call 911 immediately if you see any of the following:

  • bleeding from the eyeball (DO NOT apply pressure)
  • loss of consciousness
  • two black eyes (especially if the injury was to a part of the head other than the face)
  • confusion
  • loss of vision or blurred vision
  • vertigo (dizziness)
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: N/A

Here's How:

  1. During the first 24-48 hours, place an icepack lightly on the black eye for about 20 minutes of each waking hour. Do not leave ice on the eye for more than 20 minutes at a time.
  2. After the first 48 hours, changing from ice to heat may improve healing. Again, only about 20 minutes at a time, about once an hour.
  3. Watch the eye for swelling or infection. If the victim's vision is obstructed from swelling, or there is drainage or bleeding from the eye, call a doctor.

Tips:

  1. Never put raw meat on a black eye. There is a first aid myth that putting steak on a black eye will help it heal faster. It will not. In fact, putting raw meat on a black eye is more likely to cause an infection (see E coli).
  2. Never put pressure on the eyeball. Eyes are delicate and pressure can lead to serious permanent injury.
  3. Ice works to decrease swelling, but there's not really anything that can be done for the discoloration. It will eventually fade.
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