Black eye healing stages: Timeline and tips

A black eye typically heals on its own, without the need for medical attention. There are several ways to help ease the pain and speed up the healing process.

A black eye is a bruise that develops around the eye, usually in response to a blow to the head or face.

Below, we explore the healing stages of a black eye and give some tips for a quicker recovery. We also describe when to see a doctor about this and other types of bruising.

A black eye is a bruise around the eye area. Like other bruises, it occurs when tiny blood vessels beneath the skin rupture, causing blood to pool in surrounding tissues.

Most black eyes form following blows to the eye area, which is delicate. Because the skin around the eye is thin, blood pooling there creates a noticeable bruise.

Black eyes and other types of bruise change color as they heal. The four stages of healing are:

  • Stage 1: Oxygen-rich blood pools at the site of the injury, creating a bump that may appear red or purple.
  • Stage 2: The body begins to break down a component of the blood called hemoglobin, which carries oxygen. As the pooled blood loses oxygen, the bruise may turn blue or purple due to the creation of the compounds bilirubin and biliverdin.
  • Stage 3: The body continues to break down the pooled blood. After 5–10 days, the bruise may turn green or yellow in a person with lighter skin.
  • Stage 4: Between 10 and 14 days later, the bruise may be light brown or the color may not be noticeable.

It is highly unlikely that a black eye will go away within 24 hours. Generally, bruises are dark for at least a few days.

The time needed for healing depends on several factors, including:

  • The severity of the bruise: A small bruise typically heals faster.
  • The person’s age: Older people tend to have weaker blood vessels and thinner skin — and each can increase a person’s susceptibility to bruising and delay healing.
  • Certain underlying health issues: The following medical conditions can also increase a person’s susceptibility to bruising and delay healing:
    • infections
    • certain nutrient deficiencies
    • blood clotting disorders
  • Whether the person is taking certain medications: The following medications can increase a person’s susceptibility to bleeding and bruising:
    • blood-thinning medications
    • steroids, such as prednisone
    • certain anticancer drugs

A person can use the following strategies to speed up the healing process:

Applying ice

Wrap an ice pack in a towel and rest it gently against the eye for 10 minutes at a time, with at least 20 minutes between each application. This will help reduce immediate swelling.

Never apply ice or an ice pack directly to the skin, as it can cause skin damage.

Applying heat

Once the bruise has fully developed, applying gentle heat will boost blood flow to the area, helping to speed healing.

To do this, try soaking a cotton pad in warm water and applying it to the bruise.

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Why Is Your Eye Twitching?

Woman touching her eyes, she looks uncomfortable.

Aleksandr Davydov / Alamy Stock Photo

There it goes again. Most of us, at one time or another, have experienced eyelid twitches (also known as myokymia): mild, involuntary contractions of the orbicularis oculi muscle, located under the skin around the eyelid. Usually occurring on one side and in the lower lid, twitching tends to be short-lived, lasting a few seconds or minutes, but can recur over a few hours, days or longer.

Though these twitches can be annoying, for sure, they are usually nothing to worry about, says Eleanore T. Kim, M.D., a New York City-based ophthalmologist affiliated with NYU Langone Health: “Eyelid twitching is quite common, usually harmless, and usually goes away on its own.”

Common triggers

Stress, fatigue, caffeine and alcohol. “One thing I ask patients who complain of twitching is, ‘How much caffeine do you drink a day?’” Kim says. Indeed, downing a lot of caffeinated beverages (such as coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks) can cause quivering. She notes that caffeine increases sympathetic nerve activity, which may lead to more stimulation of the eye muscle.

A few small lifestyle tweaks may prevent bothersome twitches — for example, getting enough shut-eye (aim for seven to eight hours a night), carving out some time to de-stress during the day (say, 10 minutes of deep breathing or a walk around the neighborhood), and cutting back on the amount of soft drinks, java or vino you consume.

Dry eye and inflammation. Twitching may accompany an irritating eye condition. Dry eye — particularly common these days, with so many of us working from home and spending a lot of time in front of a computer — is often associated with eyelid twitching. Those masks we’re wearing for protection during the COVID crisis can make things worse. If the mask you’re wearing doesn’t fit securely, the air you exhale can flow up and hit the surface of the eyes, which can dry out the tear film on the surface, thus exacerbating dry eye, says Andrew Iwach, M.D., the executive director of the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco.

An inflammation of the eyelid known as blepharitis, usually caused when tiny oil glands near the base of the lashes become clogged, can also cause twitching. “As we get older, the oil [produced in the glands] can get a little thicker and accumulate a bit on the lid margin,” Iwach says. That excess oil can also invite excessive bacterial growth and lead to infection.

If eyes feel dry, restore moisture by lubricating the surface of the eyes with artificial tears. Cleaning the lids each night, before bed, can prevent the oil glands from getting clogged. Iwach suggests using warm water and mild soap or baby shampoo or buying packaged pads infused with a gentle cleaning solution. A warm compress, placed over closed lids, can also help loosen excess oil. “If there’s an underlying infection, we may put patients on antibiotics,” Iwach says. You might also consider investing in a humidifier to add

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