Black eyes are never a sign of anything good. Anything that can cause physical injury to the eye can potentially cause a black eye. It can happen by getting hit by various sporting equipment, like a ball, a stick, someone’s shoulder. Or it can simply happen to children playing a little too roughly.
Some black eyes can even be a side effect to various surgeries. It’s easy to brush off a black eye as a side effect, but there are more serious questions to ask concerning this injury. Black eyes look and feel like bruises, but can they cause more serious damage to the eyes than we’re aware of?
Is a Black Eye Really an Eye Injury?
Despite its name, a black eye is actually not technically an eye injury. It’s more of a skin injury. Like we mentioned, a black eye can be caused by almost any physical trauma to the face.
When the face experiences any sort of physical trauma, blood and other fluid collect in the very loose tissues of the skin surrounding the eye. Because the skin around the eye is very thin it is more sensitive. If you get hit in the face with something, even if it wasn’t a direct hit to the eye, you may experience a black eye.
The skin around the eye is so sensitive. That’s why a common side effect of rhinoplasty (otherwise known as a nose job) is black eyes. What’s happening is that the cartilage of the nose is being broken down and reshaped. So, a black eye is your face’s natural reaction to the trauma. This is probably why so many celebrities go into hiding before debuting their new nose.
A black eye may not actually be an eye injury the same way a detached retina is, but it can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious eye injury. Hyphema is an eye injury that will likely cause a “black eye” without any facial trauma.
Hyphema is what professionals call bleeding inside the eye. Direct, blunt trauma to the eye is often the cause of this bleeding. It is typically contained within the anterior chamber of the eye.
Sometimes a black eye is the only indication of hyphema. When the bleeding is minimal, it can be almost impossible to see without special tools. When there is more bleeding, it may look as if your eye is filling with blood, which it is, technically.
The bleeding may not start immediately after the eye trauma. In some cases, it may take three to five days for the bleeding to begin. If you ever experience an eye trauma, don’t discount hyphema right away. It may take some time to develop so keep an eye on your eyes in the days following the injury.
As hyphema is classified as a medical emergency, don’t try to treat it yourself or let it heal itself. It won’t. After an eye trauma it is best to make an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as possible. Make sure to schedule a follow-up appointment a week apart to accurately rule out hyphema.
Detached Retina and other Black Eye Side Effects
Black eyes that are cause by blunt trauma directly to the eye can have other effects on the eye too besides just causing the skin to bruise and turn purple.
Upon being struck, the eye’s retina can become detached. This is an incredibly painful injury and requires immediate attention. Symptoms include floaters in the eye, extreme eyeball pain, flashing lights and blurred vision.
If you get hit in the eye and experience any of these symptoms, do not wait for an eye doctor appointment. Go straight to the hospital for an emergency evaluation and avoid any contact with the eye.
Some other side effects of a black eye that may indicate a more serious injury include, pain in the eye, blurred or double vision, inability to move the eyes in certain directions and sensitivity to light.
If you experience any of these symptoms in addition to a black eye, seek medical help.
Black Eye Treatments
For the most part, if a black eye isn’t a direct injury to the eye itself, like any bruise it will go away with time. Applying a cold compress once a day for no more than 10 minutes can help reduce any swelling and will help get the blood circulating in the area around the eye.
When applying the compress, try to avoid ice cubes. The cubes are hard and ridged, just as ice cubes should be, but this is not what we want in a compress for black eyes. Instead of ice, try using a bag of frozen peas which will mold to the face better.
Or place two spoons in the freezer overnight for some nice relief the following morning. Fun hint, this trick is also great for getting rid of the bags under your eyes and promoting healthy circulation in the eye.
Eating the right diet can also help to quicken the healing process for a black eye. Pineapples have an enzyme in them that help reduce inflammation and vitamin C can help reduce the look of the bruise by strengthening the blood vessels.
Like we mentioned before, if the black eye results in a more serious eye injury, the only thing to do is to make an appointment with your eye doctor. They will evaluate the problem and guide you through a treatment.
For hyphema, if the bleeding is minimal, it will likely resolve itself in a week. If the bleeding does not stop on its own after a week, you may be prescribed special eye drops to reduce inflammation.
Next time a black eye makes an unwanted appearance, don’t ignore the warning signs. Get your eyes checked for any potential serious injuries.