Black eye: What are the usual causes?

A black eye is characterized by bruising around the eyes. It is usually the result of trauma to the face or head that results to bleeding under the skin. Once the small blood vessels or capillaries below the skin rupture, blood seeps into the adjacent tissue which causes the discoloration or bruising.

Most cases are not serious but can serve as an indication of a medical issue such as a skull fracture. After a few days, the discoloration around the eye fades to yellow or greenish. The reason for this is that the blood beneath the skin is eventually broken down and reabsorbed into the adjacent tissues. Depending on the amount of blood that builds up inside the skin, the tissues might require up to 2 weeks to return to its normal color.


A black eye from a minor injury can be managed with application of ice, rest and pain medications.

How is a black eye diagnosed?

If medical care is sought for a black eye, the doctor will conduct a basic assessment. The doctor will ask how the injury occurred and other related injuries. The vision is tested by shining a light into the eyes where the individual is instructed to follow the finger using his/her eyes.

In case a skull fracture is likely, an X-ray and CT scan of the face and head is done. If an eye injury is suspected, the individual is referred to an ophthalmologist. A dye is placed in the eye to test if there are any abrasions in the eyeball.


A black eye from a minor injury can be managed with application of ice, rest and pain medications. A follow-up visit with a doctor might be needed if there are any visual changes or lingering pain. In case pain and swelling are present along with the bruising, apply a cold compress for 20 minutes. Once the swelling settles, apply a warm compress to promote the reabsorption of blood.

If there is pain and throbbing, pain medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used. Make sure that pressure is not placed on the affected area.

There are also home remedies to manage a black eye. One of the commonly used is the application of an ice pack.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on black eye is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage this type of injury, register for a first aid and CPR course with Winnipeg First Aid.


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