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Black Eyes

Reviewed by: Daniel J. Lattin, MD
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What Are Black Eyes?

A black eye is bruising around the eyes that can look purple, black, or dark blue. This can happen when trauma to the head or face causes bleeding and swelling under the skin around the eye.

What Causes Black Eyes?

Most black eyes are minor injuries that happen when something strikes a person in the face, such as a ball, a fist, or a door.

Usually, they get better in a week or so. As a black eye heals, the dark color fades, and the skin can look yellow or even a bit green.

Sometimes, a black eye is more serious. If your child gets a black eye, call your doctor and talk about how the injury happened. The doctor might want to see your child and check the injury.

How Are Black Eyes Treated?

If the doctor says a black eye can be treated at home:

  • Put a cool, damp washcloth or ice wrapped in a towel over the eye for 5–-10 minutes at a time. Take at least a 15-minute break before putting the washcloth or ice wrapped in a towel over the eye again. After about a day or two, switch using warm compresses (like a warm, damp washcloth).
  • Give acetaminophen (Tylenol, Panadol, or store brand) if your child is in pain. Do not give ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, or store brand) or aspirin (Bayer or store brand) because they can increase bleeding.
  • Prop your child's head with an extra pillow at night, and encourage them to sleep on the uninjured side of the face.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call your doctor right away if your child has:

  • redness around the eye that gets worse
  • redness on the white part of the eye
  • eye pain that gets worse
  • any change in vision
  • sleepiness or a headache
  • trouble opening the eye
  • bulging of the eye

What Else Should I Know?

Talk to your child about how the eye injury happened, and if it could have been prevented. For instance, wearing proper safety glasses during sports can prevent many eye injuries, including black eyes. 

Reviewed by: Daniel J. Lattin, MD
Date reviewed: September 2021