A Black Eye — How Long Does It Take to Heal?

A black eye is generally not a serious issue. While you and I might call it a ‘shiner’, doctors refer to it as a periorbital hematoma.

However, there are circumstances under which you would be well advised to seek prompt medical attention. For example, when the injury involves a skull fracture or damage to the eyeball.

Did you know that only 15 percent of black eyes are the result of violence? It’s true!

Most black eyes occur by accident while playing sports, working, or as a result of a car accident. Men are four times more likely to suffer black eyes than women.

Black eye

 

How Long It Takes to Heal?

If you have sustained an eye injury that has caused a black eye, the first thing you should do to treat your black eye is put an ice pack on it. This will help to minimize the pain and swelling. The ice causes the blood vessels surrounding your eye to constrict.

This constriction of the blood vessels also slows the bleeding underneath the skin that causes the appearance of a black eye.

If an ice pack cannot be found, a bag of frozen peas will work. Just be sure not to eat them later. Once the peas have thawed while being used as an eye compress, they may no longer be safe to eat.

If the injury is not serious enough to call the doctor you can care for it yourself. Do this by applying an ice pack for 20 minutes each hour.

Using ice to treat your black eye:

Wrap the ice pack (or bag of frozen peas) loosely in a towel. Hold it gently but firmly against the bruised area around your eye. Do this as often as possible throughout the first day after receiving your black eye.

If your eye is swollen shut, do not attempt to force it open. Be patient and give the ice pack a chance to do its job. The swelling will go down soon enough as the eye heals, and you will be able to see out of the injured eye soon enough.

As much as possible, try to keep your head elevated from the time you incur your injury until the day when it finally heals. This will help to keep excess blood flow away from the injury, thereby helping to reduce swelling and intraocular pressure more quickly, and speeding the healing process.

Additional home remedies for a black eye include:

Try over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen (e.g., Advil or Motrin), but do not take aspirin unless your doctor directs you to do so. Aspirin can act as a blood thinner and worsen the bleeding, which will increase the time it takes for your black eye to heal.

Some people may advise you to treat a black eye by putting a raw steak on your injury; disregard this advice. Putting raw meat on an injury is unsanitary and can introduce harmful bacteria into your injured eye.

You’ll want to make sure you add Vitamin C to your diet, though. Vitamin C is known to thicken the blood vessels, which helps the healing process. Besides the common Vitamin C foods like oranges, lemons, and limes, other food sources rich in Vitamin C include mangoes, guavas, peppers, and broccoli.

Pineapple and papaya are also great foods to eat while you’re healing from a black eye. They are rich in antioxidants and aid in the healing of discolored skin. Some people believe you should rub the pulp parts of these foods directly on your skin.

When should I see a doctor?

If your black eye shows no signs of healing after a week, or if it is not completely healed within three weeks, you should make an appointment to see a doctor for treatment as soon as possible.

Also, if the bruised area around your eye is warm to the touch, or if the eye or the skin around it begins to leak pus, you need to see a doctor immediately. These are signs of infection, and the consequences of delaying medical treatment for an infection can be severe.

If your regular doctor cannot fit you in for an appointment within 24 hours, then you should go to an urgent-care clinic. Most municipalities have at least one such clinic, and any city of any significant size will have several.

It is also important to seek immediate medical attention if, in the course of receiving the injury that caused your black eye, you sustained a hard blow to the head (especially if that blow caused you to lose consciousness).

Such a blow may have caused a concussion. Symptoms of a concussion may also include blurred vision or double vision. Left untreated, a concussion—even a mild one—can lead to lasting brain damage.

If you have two black eyes—especially if you have sustained a blow to the back of the head—you may have suffered a severe kind of injury known as a basilar skull fracture. This is potentially a life-threatening injury. Needless to say, you should not delay seeking medical attention if you have this symptom.

Other symptoms that may accompany a black eye that indicate you need immediate medical treatment include:

The good news about black eye treatment is that it is generally unnecessary—given a week or two to heal, a black eye will usually disappear on its own. The swelling will go down, and the bruised skin will turn from blue-black to yellowish brown before finally fading back to your natural skin tone.

What Is the Best Way to Conceal a Black Eye?

A black eye can sometimes take as long as two weeks to heal completely, and a severe black eye can take even longer. Unless you plan to stay home and not leave the house for as long as your black eye takes to heal (or unless you plan to wear sunglasses everywhere you go), you may want to try concealing it with makeup.

Most drug stores have a wide selection of cosmetics, and it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a concealer that matches your skin tone. Make sure there is no broken skin before applying concealer, and do not use concealer if you have stitches.

First, it is important to wait until any swelling has gone down before using cosmetics to conceal your black eye. Don’t interfere with the healing process by applying makeup while the eye is still swollen. This will cause your black eye to last longer.

Another reason to wait until the swelling goes down is this: in the early stages of the healing process you will be holding an ice pack against your eye for much of the time. This will cause any makeup you apply to rub off, making any attempt at concealing your black eye futile.

Most drug stores and pharmacy chains have a wide selection of eye cosmetics, and it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a concealer that matches your skin tone.

Side note: do not use concealer if you have stitches.

These are the items you will need to conceal your black eye:

  • Concealer or foundation two shades lighter than your skin
  • Concealer brush for application (don’t use your fingers; that will cause your makeup to smudge)
  • Soft-bristle eye-shadow brush for blending
  • A pale green matte eye-shadow pigment of some sort (nothing shiny)
  • Pink/tan/brown flesh-colored eye shadow
  • Contour palette and bronzer for blending

Note: Green helps to correct the appearance of excessive redness in the skin. You can create a green concealer by blending your concealer or foundation with green eye-shadow pigment.

Steps to Take to Conceal Your Black Eye

  1. Put a small dollop of concealer or foundation on the back of your hand; you will use your hand as a palette.
  2. Using the concealer brush, blend the concealer or foundation with the green eye shadow. If you find you have used too much green, add some more foundation to your mixture until it looks right.
  3. The mixture should have a pale, light-green appearance, but it should not look like you’re planning to audition for the next “Incredible Hulk” movie!
  4. Using the eye shadow brush, gently apply eye shadow over the area where you have applied the mixture of concealer (or foundation) and green eye shadow; use whatever combination of tan, pink, and/or brown is necessary to match the tone of the skin in the area surrounding your black eye.
  5. Just as green counteracts red, pink will work to counter the appearance of yellow. You may need to use pink eye shadow in the foundation mixture in some areas, depending on the color and tone of your skin and how much yellow appears in your bruise (this will likely change as the bruise heals).
  6. When this is done, you will probably notice that while your black eye injury is no longer visible as such, it now looks unnaturally smoother and brighter than your other, uninjured eye.

To address this difference in color between your eyes and keep a natural appearance:

  1. apply to your “good” eye the same color mixture of tan/pink/brown eye shadow that you used for the top layer of makeup over your black eye.
  2. Finally, you will need to create a blended look over your entire face, so that it isn’t obvious that you’re wearing a ton of makeup on your eyes. Use the foundation you would normally use … but be gentle! You don’t want to undo all the painstaking work you’ve done so far to conceal your black eye.
  3. After you have finished blending your mixture of eye make-up over the rest of your face, apply a little bronzer around the contours of the area where you applied all that foundation and eye shadow.

And remember, if you’re reading this, you should have an uninjured eye; if both eyes are black eyes, then concealing a black eye should be the least of your worries—you may have a serious head injury, and you need to see a doctor immediately.

Why Does a Black Eye Happen?

A black eye is really nothing more than a bruise around your eye—i.e., bleeding under the skin. It is caused by blunt trauma, such as might result from a careless collision with a doorframe or a tennis ball, or from an unexpected punch in the face during a physical altercation.

The blood collects in the space surrounding the eye, and eventually becomes visible through the skin. In most cases these injuries heal on their own within a few weeks and medical attention is generally not required.

A black eye is usually characterized by these symptoms:

  • Pain and swelling
  • Dark purple and yellow discoloration of the skin around the eye socket
  • Headache
  • Difficulty opening the eye

What Will a Doctor Look For?

Sometimes damage can occur to the tiny bones, nerves, muscles, or tendons located in and around your eye. Your eye doctor will be able to rule these injuries out.

Start with making an appointment with your regular doctor first. Your regular doctor may be able to treat your problem; if not, he or she will certainly be able to tell you what to do next.

To begin, your doctor will want to know more about your symptoms. He or she will ask you lots of questions in order to gain a better understanding of what you are going through.

After that, your doctor will want to do a physical exam. He or she will shine a light into your eye to get a better look at your pupil and the eye itself. Your doctor will be checking for additional injuries you may not be aware of like abrasions to your eyeball or the skin under the eyelids.

You may need have an X-ray or CT scan if your doctor believes that you have suffered a more severe injury. Reasons for these tests will be to see if there are any fractures to the bones around your eye and face, or whether there may be nerve or muscle damage.

What Are Possible Complications from a Black Eye?

While it’s rarely a serious injury, it may indicate a fracture or damage to the eye socket or to the eye itself. In some cases victims of eye injury may experience hyphema, which is bleeding in the antechamber of the eye. This is the fluid-filled area between the cornea and the iris.

Ocular hypertension (that is, high pressure within the eye) can also result from the type of blunt-force injury.

In rare cases, other problems may be arise with a black eye. These may include:

But again, this is only seen every now and then.

It’s also a good idea to add vitamins and antioxidants to your diet. If you want to learn more about specific vitamins and minerals that are essential for your eye health, click here.

Other reasons to seek immediate medical attention:

  • Changes in your vision, such as blurring or double vision
  • Loss of vision
  • Severe, persistent pain
  • Pain with eye movement
  • Discharge from the eye (this may be a sign of infection)
  • Bleeding from the eye
  • Drowsiness or feelings of disorientation (these may be signs of a concussion)
  • Blood or any type of fluid leaking from your ears (this too may be a sign of a concussion)
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Swelling has not gone down after a few days
  • Loss of consciousness at the time of the injury
  • Inability to move the eye
  • The eyeball appears deformed

How Can I Prevent a Black Eye?

Your eyes are delicate and irreplaceable, so take the best possible care of them. And be conscious of their safety at all times.

Sports

If you participate in certain physically dangerous sports, wear some form of eye or head protection for that activity. Appropriate eyewear for protection while participating in sports generally features polycarbonate lenses.

The most dangerous sports for your eyes are baseball, basketball, and racquet-oriented sports such as tennis, jai-alai, Ping-Pong, etc,. Any sport that involves small, hard objects (balls, etc.) flying directly at your face.

Combat sports such as boxing and various martial arts also have great potential to cause eye injuries, especially black eyes. Still, while we have been focusing here on action sports, we should point out a little-known and surprising fact: the number one sport for eye injuries is (of all things) … fishing!

Occupational Hazards

If your job features such occupational hazards as flying particles or objects you should wear goggles at all times. Job-related eye injuries occur to over 2,000 people each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

American workers don’t always seek medical treatment for eye injuries. The statistic quoted above accounts only for injuries severe enough to seek medical attention.  So be careful out there!

If you suffer an on-the-job injury severe enough to cause a black eye, notify your supervisor immediately. Also consider seeking medical attention at once.

Domestic Violence

If you are in a domestic violence situation, protect yourself by seeking professional help. Please visit the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence to find information about getting help in your area.

Also, be observant of the people in your life, such as your coworkers, or your children’s friends and their parents. Don’t be afraid to blow the whistle. Especially if you notice someone seems to have black eyes often.

What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor?

  • Do I have a concussion, or just a bruised eye socket?
  • Will I need additional medical treatment, or will an ice pack and a bottle of ibuprofen suffice?
  • How bad have I damaged my eyeball?
  • How long will it take my black eye to heal?
  • I have two black eyes, but I do not recall having injured both of them. Is it possible that I have a head injury severe enough to have caused a basilar skull fracture?
  • Should I set another appointment for a checkup?

 

References:
This article was last updated on 09/2017