Definition

An eye contusion (black eye) is when blood vessels around the eye are damaged or broken after an injury.

Eyelid Contusion
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Causes

A black eye is caused by a being struck in the eye or nose.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Playing sports such as basketball, football, hockey, and boxing
  • Certain jobs with a higher risk of eye injuries, such as manufacturing and construction
  • Being around violence
  • Taking part in fights
  • Not wearing a seatbelt

Symptoms

The main symptoms is a black and blue or purple mark around the eye. There may also be redness, swelling, and tenderness or pain. The skin may turn yellow when it begins to heal.

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked how the injury happened. The eye will be examined. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

More tests may be done to look for other problems from the injury, such as trouble seeing or a fracture.

Treatment

Most black eyes heal on their own in about 2 weeks. The goal of treatment is to ease pain and swelling. Choices are:

  • Applying ice on the eye after the injury
  • Applying a warm pack on the eye after swelling has gone down
  • Taking pain relievers, such as acetaminophen

Prevention

To lower the risk of a black eye:

  • Wear eye protection when playing sports or doing work that may result in eye injury.
  • Avoid situations that may involve fighting.
  • Wear a seat belt when you are in a motor vehicle.
RESOURCES:

Eye Smart—American Academy of Opthalmology
http://www.eyesmart.org

National Domestic Violence Hotline
http://www.ndvh.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Ophthalmological Society
http://www.eyesite.ca

Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

REFERENCES:

Approach to eye trauma—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/approach-to-eye-trauma-emergency-management. Accessed October 21, 2020.

Eye injuries. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at http://kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/emergencies/eye_injury.html. Accessed October 21, 2020.

Romaniuk VM. Ocular trauma and other catastrophes. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2013 May;31(2):399-411.

What is a black eye? Eye Smart—American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/black-eye.cfm. Accessed October 21, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD  Last Updated: 10/21/2020