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Black eye

A black eye is bruising and swelling around your eye. It is 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 treat a black eye


  • hold an ice pack to the area around your eye

  • take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen for pain

  • after the first 2 days, put a warm heat pack or cloth to the area regularly during the day


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

  • do not press or rub the area around your eye

  • do not put ice directly on your skin

How to ice a black eye

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

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if

you have a black eye and:

  • you have severe pain or swelling
  • you have a headache that does not 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 advice: 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)

Emergency action required: Go to an emergency department (ED) if:

  • there's blood in your eye
  • the shape of your pupil (the black dot at the centre of your eye) has changed
  • 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, you see flashing lights, halos or shadows
  • you have pain when you look at a bright light
  • you cannot move your eye

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Page last reviewed: 22 May 2023
Next review due: 22 May 2026

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