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How do I give first aid for a black eye?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

A black eye, or deep bruise around the eye caused by trauma, can often be treated by first aid at home. Gentle pressure should be applied - but don't press the eye itself. Use a cold pack to apply the pressure and help reduce swelling. If the black eye is very serious; however, or if there is bleeding in the eye, be sure to see a doctor to avoid further injury or vision loss.

To care for a black eye, apply something cold, such as an ice bag or ice pack within a towel, for at least half an hour. This will help reduce swelling and bruising. If the vision is distorted, rest for a full 24-hour period is recommended. You should not blow you nose, and you should avoid activities that will increase pressure in the face. This will help to avoid further bleeding, bruising and swelling.

Depending on the severity, black eyes can be a sign of an orbital fracture. It is common to have double vision and limited movement of the eye as well as extreme pain. If the eye appears to be unusually lower on the face than the other eye, and if you have pain, swelling, and bleeding, a fracture may be suspected, which requires an x-ray. Surgery is sometimes required depending upon the doctor's preference after viewing the x-ray.

(This answer provided for NATA by the Georgia College & State University Athletic Training Education Program.)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.