An eye contusion is a bruise around the eye, commonly called a black eye. It may occur when a blow occurs in or near the eye socket. If a bruise appears, it will usually do so within 24 hours of the injury.
Factors that increase your risk of eye contusion include:
A black and blue or purple mark will appear following the injury. There may also be redness, swelling, and tenderness or pain. After it begins to heal, the contusion may turn yellow.
Eye contusions are diagnosed visually. Healthcare providers assume that the eye has been struck in some way. Most people are able to self-diagnose a contusion, but a doctor may confirm the diagnosis.
It is important to apply first-aid treatment right away.
Many eye injuries are minor and will heal within two weeks with basic first aid. There is always the risk of more serious consequences, so you should still see an eye doctor immediately, even if you have no symptoms. This is especially urgent if a blow to the eye causes blood to appear in your eye, loss or change in vision, double vision, inability to move the eye normally, or severe pain in your eyeball. Depending on the extent of your injury, your doctor may provide further medical treatment. For instance:
If you are diagnosed with an eye contusion, follow your doctor's instructions.
To help reduce your chance of an eye contusion, take the following steps:
American Academy of Opthalmology
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
National Eye Institute
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
Public Health Agency of Canada
American Academy of Ophthalmology. Preventing Eye Injuries: A Closer Look [brochure]. 2004.
Beers MH, Berkow R, et al, eds. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories; 1999.
Contusion. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated September 27, 2011. Accessed March 20, 2013.
Eye injuries. Nemours Foundation KidsHealth.org website. Available at http://kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/emergencies/eye_injury.html. Updated January 2011. Accessed September 25, 2005.
Johns Hopkins University. The Johns Hopkins Family Health Book. New York: Harper Collins Publishing; 1999.
What is a black eye? American Academy of Ophthalmology eyeSmart website. Available at: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/black-eye.cfm. Accessed March 20, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Peter Lucas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.