Treat a black eye like you would a sprained ankle or other soft-tissue injuries. That means remembering the handy acronym “RICE”: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Anything you do that gets your heart rate up increases the risk of swelling and bruising. Take it easy for the first day or two after the injury.
In the first two days, ice your eye to decrease swelling and stop blood and fluid from pooling. Apply a cold compress, 20 minutes on, then 20 minutes off. (The 20 minutes off is important — constant cold exposure can damage the skin.)
Go the cold route for the first two days. After that, applying warm compresses can help open blood vessels. That helps fluid drain, decreasing puffiness.
Keep your head up (at least for the first day or two). Sitting in a recliner or using some extra pillows when you sleep helps gravity work to reduce swelling.
What to expect as your black eye heals
Swelling typically peaks two days after the injury, so don’t be surprised if you wake up looking worse the next day. After that, it can take around two weeks for the swelling and bruising to go away.
Your eye will probably do a rainbow impression as it heals, passing from purple and blue to green and yellow before finally fading away.
See a doctor if you notice signs that things are getting worse, not better, after the first few days. Clues of an infection or other problem include:
- Swelling that increases after the first two days
- Increased pain or tenderness
- Skin that’s hot to the touch
- Increased redness (instead of the usual purple/blue/green/yellow palette)
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