Often, after trauma to the face or eye region, the tissue around the eye bruises and a black eye forms. Tiny blood vessels in the face, capillaries, burst due to the trauma and leak blood under the skin. Black eyes often swell heavily, which can affect vision. Most black eyes cause some level of pain. Generally, black eyes recover with simple home treatments and do not require medical intervention. However, trauma to the eyes can cause other issues as well as black eyes, and these complications may require medical attention.

Ice Packs

Applying a cold compress or ice pack is one of the first treatments a person should turn to after a black eye begins to develop. Lightly press the ice pack to the injured eye for 15 minutes every hour for the first 24 hours following the injury. Never place ice directly on the skin or press too firmly. If an ice pack or cold compress is not available, substitutes such as bags of frozen vegetables or a cloth wrapped around loose ice are also effective.

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Warm Compresses

After the 24 hours, swapping from an ice pack to warm compresses will reduce pain and swelling. While many people do not own a warm or hot compress, they are simple to make. Simply dipping a cloth in hot water is effective enough, but it is often more ideal to heat cold water in a clean pot than to use warm water from the tap. In many homes, warm water sits in a water heater tank, and this can lead to accumulations of bacteria that travel from the cloth to the eye. Some individuals find that warm compresses containing herbal teas or infusions such as garlic have extra healing power.

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Pain Medication

Many over-the-counter (OTC) medications can help alleviate the symptoms of black eyes. Certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can manage pain, fever, and inflammation. Stronger OTC pain medications often appear in cold medications and pain relievers. As with all medications, it’s important to stick to the recommended dosages. Many have potentially dangerous side effects should a person exceed the proper dosage amount. For example, excessive doses of some drugs can lead to liver failure.

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Other Medications

Before taking any medication, it’s important to read the side effects. For example, some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs increase bleeding. These drugs can worsen the bruising and may lead to more severe issues. If a person notices that the eye itself begins to bleed or develop severe redness, they should immediately contact a medical professional. This is a common symptom of more severe eye injuries that may be difficult for physicians to treat. Without treatment, the damage may be irreversible and have serious consequences.

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Beyond just treating the symptoms, it’s important to protect an injured eye from other damage. This doesn’t necessarily mean protective coverings such as wraps or goggles, though this may be helpful for some. Rather, protecting the eye is a matter of avoiding other physical injuries. Normally active individuals may want to avoid exercises or sports that could cause more damage. People prone to falls should ensure their floors are clear of obstructions or use walking assistance such as canes, walkers, or wheelchairs.

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Head Elevation

Severe black eyes may have swelling that doesn’t respond to cold or warm compresses. In some cases, they may even be painful enough to affect a person’s sleep. In instances of severe black eyes, many people find it beneficial to elevate their head while lying down. This can help with the swelling and inflammation. Some may notice that bruising moves from the eye to the cheek or the other eye. This is a normal occurrence and is not necessarily a sign of a worsening condition.

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Raw Meat Myth

Many people hear about or see people using raw meat to help ease black eyes. However, this is a potentially dangerous myth. Primarily, no research suggests that raw meat is effective in alleviating any of the symptoms of a black eye. Additionally, raw meat contains lots of bacteria, which can travel to the bruise and the eye, potentially resulting in serious infection. Cold compresses are safer and more effective than raw meat.

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When Home Remedies Fail

Some people may have symptoms that persist for several days even while using various methods of treatment. If the black eye doesn’t show any sign of recovery within a few weeks, medical intervention is likely necessary. Additionally, if the black eye worsens or begins to affect vision, a specialist may need to investigate the issue. Trauma often affects more than the area around the eye, and there could be bone or nerve damage that is not visible from the surface.

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Immediate Medical Care

Some signs and symptoms indicate the need for immediate medical assistance. Primarily, any behavioral changes, forgetfulness, or fatigue could be signs of a more serious head injury. Other symptoms that might require immediate care include

  • An inability to properly move the affected eye.
  • Fluid leaking from the eye, bruise, ears, or nose.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Signs of broken bones or teeth.
  • An inability to walk or move properly.

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Specialist Care

Depending on the symptoms, a general physician may refer a patient to specialists in other fields for specific treatments. Typically, this begins with tests to determine what underlying conditions might exist, such as x-rays for fractures or MRI scans for brain damage. If a physician suspects a brain or skull injury, they may refer to a neurosurgeon. If the eye itself appears to have an injury, an ophthalmologist will often take over the treatment. These doctors will perform treatments specific to the patient and the injury.

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