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Black eye

A black eye is bruising and swelling around your eye, usually caused by a blow to the area, such as a punch or fall. It should get better within 2 to 3 weeks.

How to ease a black eye yourself

Do

hold an ice pack to the area around your eye

take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen for any pain

after the first 2 days, put a warm (not hot) heat pack or cloth to the area regularly during the day

Don't

do not take aspirin, unless prescribed by a GP, as this can make the bruising worse

do not press or rub the area around your eye

do not put ice directly on your skin

Icepack

If you do not have an icepack, you could use a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a cloth. Hold it to the area around your eye for about 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Repeat regularly during the first 1 to 2 days.

When to see a GP

See a GP if you have a black eye and:

  • you have severe pain or swelling
  • you have a headache that doesn't go away or blurry vision
  • the area around your eye is warm or leaking pus
  • your temperature is above 38 degrees Celsius, or you feel hot and shivery
  • it does not go away within 3 weeks

Urgent appointment

Ask for an urgent appointment if you have a black eye and:

  • you're taking blood-thinning medication (such as warfarin)
  • you have a bleeding disorder (such as haemophilia)

When to go to the hospital

Go to an emergency department (ED) if:

  • there's blood visible in your eye
  • you have an irregularly shaped pupil (the black dot at the centre of the eye)
  • you had a blow to the head and have bruising around both eyes
  • you have problems with your vision, such as double vision, loss of vision, seeing flashing light, halos or shadows
  • you have pain when looking at a bright light
  • you cannot move your eye

page last reviewed: 26/04/2020
next review due: 26/04/2023

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.