Eye Contusion

A contusion is another word for a bruise. It happens when small blood vessels break open and leak blood into the nearby area. An eye contusion is usually caused by something hitting the eye or nose. You may have pain and swelling around the eye. The skin may also change color (it may be red at first and then darken). For this reason, an eye contusion is often called a black eye.

If needed, imaging tests, such as an X-ray, may be done to help rule out more serious problems.

Pain and swelling should improve within a few days. Bruising may take longer to go away.

Home care

  • If you have been prescribed medicines for pain, take them as directed.

  • To help reduce swelling and pain for the first day or two, apply a cold pack to the injured eye for up to 20 minutes. Do this as often as directed. You can make an ice pack by filling a plastic bag that seals at the top with ice cubes, and then wrapping it with a thin towel. Never put a cold pack directly on the skin.

Note about concussion

Because the injury was to your face or head, it is possible that you could have a mild brain injury called a concussion. Symptoms of a concussion can show up later. For this reason, you need to watch for symptoms of concussion once you’re home. 

Call 911 if you have any of the symptoms below over the next hours to days:

  • Headache

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Dizziness

  • Sensitivity to light or noise

  • Unusual sleepiness or grogginess

  • Trouble falling asleep

  • Personality changes

  • Vision changes

  • Memory loss

  • Confusion

  • Trouble walking or clumsiness

  • Loss of consciousness (even for a short time)

  • Inability to be awakened

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as directed. If imaging tests were done, they may need to be reviewed by a healthcare provider. You’ll be told the results and any new findings that may affect your treatment.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur: 

  • Pain, bruising, or swelling worsens

  • Vision changes, such as seeing small dots or double vision

  • Inability to move the eye

  • Bleeding on the eyeball surface

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