A black eye is bruising to tissue under the skin surrounding your eye.
It is usually caused by a blow to the face, such as a punch, or being hit in the face by a fast moving object, such as a tennis ball.
Sometimes, a black eye can occur after cosmetic surgery to the face, such as a facelift or a nose operation.
The area around the eye turns bluish or purple because tiny blood vessels (capillaries) under the skin burst and blood leaks out into surrounding soft tissue.
Your eye may be painful and swollen and your vision may be temporarily blurred. You may also have a headache and find it difficult to open your eye.
A black eye is not usually a serious injury.
After a few days, swelling around your eye will start to go down and the bruise will begin to fade.
Like any other bruise, a black eye will usually take about 14 days to heal completely.
You should visit your doctor if you have a black eye and:
It's unusual for a black eye to develop unexpectedly, when there hasn't been an injury, but a possible explanation is high blood pressure causing a capillary to burst, or one of the conditions listed below.
Go to your local emergency medical centre if:
Apply an ice pack to your black eye as soon as possible after the injury. You can use a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel.
The cold will numb the pain and relieve the swelling by causing tiny blood vessels in the tissue surrounding your eye to narrow. During the first day, you should apply the ice pack to your eye for 20 minutes an hour every hour.
Do not apply steak or raw meat to your eye. There is no evidence to suggest this is an effective treatment and you may introduce harmful bacteria into your eye or any wound.
Painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, can be used to help relieve pain. However, avoid using aspirin (unless your doctor advises you to take it) because it thins the blood and can cause increased bleeding.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.