What causes black eye? 19 possible conditions

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Black eye is the appearance of bruising around the eyes. This may occur when the capillaries (small blood vessels) beneath the skin have broken and blood has leaked into the surrounding tissue, creating discolorations.

Alternative Names

Eye bruises, bruising around the eyes.


A black eye is usually the result of trauma to the head or face – particularly the nose, resulting in bleeding beneath the skin which results in discoloration or bruising. Most black eyes are not serious, but sometimes can be an indicator of a medical emergency, such as a skull fracture. Black eyes appear after some surgical procedures such as nose surgery or facelift. Black eye may occur when blood, originating in the forehead or nose, settles by gravitational effect underneath the eye. "Raccoon eyes" refers to blood that settles underneath the eyes and is associated with a fracture in the base of the skull.

Over the course of a few days, the black and blue color of the bruises around the eyes fades to yellow or green as the blood breaks down and is reabsorbed into the surrounding tissues. Depending on the amount of blood that has collected within the skin, the tissues may require up to two weeks to return to normal color.

It is important to be aware that unexplained bruising may be a sign of domestic violence or abuse. Your health providers are required by law to ask you questions to make sure you are safe in your domestic situation.

Associated Diagnoses

  • Broken nose
  • Concussion
  • Dengue fever
  • Christmas disease
  • Epidural hematoma
  • Eye emergencies
  • Head injury
  • Factor II deficiency
  • Factor V deficiency
  • Factor VII deficiency
  • Factor X deficiency
  • Subdural hematoma
  • Shaken baby syndrome
  • Skull fracture
  • Hemophila A
  • Von Willebrand disease

Diagnosis and Treatment

Black eyes due to a minor injury can be treated with rest, ice and pain medication. A follow-up visit with your doctor is indicated if you have any visual changes or lingering pain. If swelling and pain accompany bruising, apply a cold compress for 20 minutes until the swelling is reduced. When the swelling is reduced (after 72 hours), you may apply a warm compress to help promote reabsorption of the blood.

If you seek medical treatment, a thorough physical examination will be done, including an eye exam. CT scans and x-rays of the face and head may be done if fractures are suspected. If an injury to the eye itself is suspected, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist. If a head injury is suspected, you will be referred to a neurosurgeon. If fractures of the face are suspected, you will be referred to an ENT specialist. You will be referred to a cosmetic surgeon to repair any significant lacerations of the face.

There is no evidence to support the practice of putting raw meat on a black eye.

Seek immediate medical treatment if:

Black eyes are accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • Fractures
  • Broken teeth
  • Headache
  • Loss of vision
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Blood or clear fluid draining from the nose or ears
  • Blood on the surface of the eyeball
  • Inability to move the eye
  • Blurred or otherwise altered vision
  • Red eyes
  • Purulent drainage
  • Behavioral changes: forgetfulness, lethargy
  • Nausea, vomiting or dizziness
  • Gait changes or difficulty walking

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.


Broken Nose

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A broken nose is a crack or break of the bone or cartilage in the nose. Swelling of the nose, or the area around the nose, is one sign of a broken nose.

Read more »


Nose Injury

Nosebleeds are common and rarely indicate a serious medical problem. However, frequent nosebleeds, a bleed that lasts longer than 20 minutes or occurs after an injury may require medical attention. Dry air is the mos...

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. Usually it occurs after an impact to your head or after a whiplash-type injury. A concussion can cause many severe symptoms that affect brain function.

Read more »


Head Injury

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A head injury could be an injury to the brain, skull, or scalp. It can vary in severity depending on the cause. In some cases face swelling can be a sign of a head injury.

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Skull Fractures

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A skull fracture is any break in the cranial bone, or the skull. It can result in bleeding, bruising, pain, and swelling. Less severe symptoms include headache, nausea, confusion, and blurred vision.

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Eye Emergencies

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

An eye emergency is when chemicals or a foreign object gets in the eye, or an injury affects the eye area. Emergencies require immediate medical attention to help prevent permanent vision damage.

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Epidural Hematoma

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

An epidural hematoma occurs when blood fills the area between the skull and the protective covering of the brain. It usually results from a traumatic injury to the head, and puts you at risk for brain damage or death.

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Subdural Hematoma

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Subdural hematoma is an accumulation of blood on the brain's surface beneath the skull that's usually caused by a head injury and can be fatal. Headache, seizure, and slurred speech are signs.

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Hemophilia A

Hemophilia A (factor VIII deficiency) is the most common form of the blood clotting disorder hemophilia. It can cause prolonged bleeding, tight joints, and unexplained bruising.

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Foreign Object in the Eye

A foreign object in the eye is anything that enters the eye from outside the body and does not belong there. It causes immediate symptoms, but may or may not be serious, depending on the object.

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Factor V Deficiency

Factor V deficiency, also known as Owren's disease or parahemophilia, is a very rare blood clotting disorder that results in slow or prolonged blood clotting after an injury or surgery. Factor V (proaccelerin) is ...

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Von Willebrand Disease

Von Willebrand disease is a bleeding disorder caused by a deficiency of von Willebrand factor (VWF). To understand this disease, you need to understand a little bit about how blood clotting works. Platelets ar...

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Shaken Baby Syndrome

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Shaken baby syndrome is caused by forcefully and violently shaking a baby. Other names for this condition include abusive head trauma, shaken impact syndrome, whiplash shake syndrome, and inflicted head injury. Shake...

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Factor II Deficiency

Factor II deficiency is a very rare blood clotting disorder that results in excessive or prolonged bleeding after an injury or surgery. Factor II, also known as prothrombin, is a protein made in your liver that plays a...

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Ebola Virus and Disease

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Ebola disease-also called Ebola hemorrhagic fever or Ebola fever-is a rare and often fatal illness that humans and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys and gorillas) can contract. There have been several outbreaks o...

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Christmas Disease (Hemophilia B)

Christmas disease - also called hemophilia B or factor IX hemophilia - is a rare genetic disorder in which your blood does not clot properly. If you have Christmas disease, your body produces little or no blood-clottin...

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Factor X Deficiency

Factor X deficiency, also called Stuart-Prower factor deficiency, is a condition caused by not having enough of the protein known as factor X in your blood. Factor X plays a role in blood clotting, also calle...

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Dengue Fever

Dengue fever is a disease spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and caused by one of four dengue viruses that are closely related. The viruses that cause dengue fever are related to those that cause yellow fever and Wes...

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Factor VII Deficiency

Factor VII deficiency is a blood clotting disorder that causes excessive or prolonged bleeding after an injury or surgery. With Factor VII deficiency, your body either doesn't produce enough factor VII, or something i...

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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