Our eye is one of the most important parts of our body. The vision is what allows us to see the world around us – we have vision thanks to many components within our eyes and brain that function together. These parts include the lens, retina, and optic nerve. Each of these parts is what turns light and electrical signals into images that you can see. Additionally, there are several different parts of your eye and brain that work together to help you see. Therefore, the main components of your vision include:
The cornea is a transparent dome-shaped tissue that forms the front part of your eye. It functions as a window and allows light to enter your eye. It also starts the process of focusing light rays that allow you to see words and images clearly. The cornea does not contain any blood vessels but instead contains many nerve endings that make it extremely sensitive. That is why a simple scratch or a loose eyelash can result in a painful sensation.
Iris and pupil
The iris is a ring-shaped membrane inside the eye that surrounds an opening in the center, known as the pupil. The iris contains muscles that allow the pupil to become larger (open up or dilate) and smaller (close up or constrict). The iris regulates the amount of light that enters your eye by adjusting the size of the pupil opening. In bright light, the iris closes and makes the pupil opening smaller to restrict the amount of light that enters your eye.
The lens is generally composed of transparent, flexible tissue and is located directly behind the iris and the pupil. It is the second part of your eye, after the cornea, that helps to focus light and images on your retina. Because the lens is flexible and elastic, it can change its curved shape to focus on objects and people that are either nearby or at a distance.
Retina and optic nerve
The retina is the light-sensitive tissue that lines the inside surface of the eye, much like wallpaper. Cells in the retina convert incoming light into electrical impulses. These electrical impulses are carried by the optic nerve to the brain, which interprets them as visual images.
Though they are most commonly thought of in relation to crying, tears are meant to keep your eyes wet and help you focus clearly. They also help protect your eyes from irritation and infection.
A black eye (also known as periorbital hematoma) occurs when fluid collects in the tissues surrounding the eye, typically after an injury to the area. It is technically a bruise or discoloration caused by broken blood vessels under the surface of the skin.
Because the facial skin around the eye socket is relatively thin and transparent, even a slight pooling of blood can result in a very noticeable discoloration. A mild black eye may appear red at first, then darken and get more swollen over time. As a bruised eye begins to heal, it can turn purple, blue, green, or even yellow.
Causes & Symptoms of a Black Eye
A black eye is an appearance of bruising around the eyes. It’s normally the result of trauma to the head or face, which causes bleeding beneath the skin. When the small blood vessels, or capillaries, beneath the skin break, blood leaks into the surrounding tissue.
This is what causes discoloration or bruising. Most black eyes are not serious, however, they can sometimes be an indicator of a medical emergency such as a skull fracture. A black eye is also referred to as eye bruises and bruising around the eyes. Black eyes can also appear after certain surgical procedures, such as nose surgery or a facelift.
Over a period of time, the black-and-blue color of bruises around the eyes fades to a yellow or green coloration. That is because the blood under the skin eventually 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 recover and return to normal color. Other symptoms that are linked to black eye include:
- Inflammation around the eye; this may start out mild and then worsen, possibly making it difficult to open the eye.
- Bruising, discoloration, and soreness around the eye; generally, the skin first appears red and then changes to dark purple, yellow, green, or black.
- Blurry or double vision after the injury.
The following symptoms below may be the result of a serious head injury:
- Blood on the surface of the eyeball.
- Inability to move the eye.
- Vision loss.
- Blood or fluid coming out from your nose or ears.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Severe or constant headache.
Who gets a Black Eye?
Anyone can get an eye injury that may lead to a black eye. Kids and teenagers are more likely to injure their eyes, especially while playing sports or doing other recreational activities. People who also play contact sports like football and hockey have a higher chance of a black eye.
Baseball and softball players are more prone to have an eye injury from a flying ball. In addition, construction workers and people who work with chemicals, lasers, and potential irritants have a higher risk of a black eye on the job. Eye injuries can occur at home while doing simple tasks, such as yard work, cooking, or even cleaning.
How Does a Black Eye Affect You? How Serious is it?
A black eye is typically a mild condition that only requires the application of ice packs and other simple home remedies. However, in cases of a severe injury, can lead to sight-threatening complications. The following problems below are required for immediate urgent care:
Blunt trauma to the eye can cause internal damage to the eye, such as traumatic uveitis and iritis (a form of uveitis). Iritis normally only affects one eye. The first sign of uveitis or iritis could be a black eye, but then other symptoms may also appear, such as blurred vision, floating spots before the eyes, and small or irregularly shaped pupils.
This is a collection of blood inside the eye, in the anterior (front) chamber of the eye, which indicates damage to the eye’s internal tissues. The amount of blood may be too little to notice with the naked eye, or it may completely fill the front of the eye.
Glaucoma is increased pressure inside the eye and may also be a result of blunt trauma to the eye, the increased pressure can occur immediately or even many years later. The force of the trauma might produce internal bleeding, resulting in a rise in eye pressure and permanent damage to the optic nerve. Even several years after the injury, scar tissue inside the eye can develop causing a slow rise in eye pressure and delayed-onset glaucoma might develop. Glaucoma can cause permanent vision loss, known as tunnel vision.
Detachment of the retina can result in permanent vision loss. Trauma to the eye can cause the retina, which lines the back of the eyeball, to be lifted or pulled out of its usual position, causing the detachment. Flashing lights, partial or complete vision loss in the eye and spots/floaters in the field of vision are all symptoms that must be treated immediately.
Orbital floor fracture
This is also known as a ‘blowout fracture’ and may occur as a result of forceful blunt trauma to the eye. The force of the blow pushes the eyeball farther into the eye socket, breaking the eye socket’s thin bone walls. The optic nerve and the muscles that move the eye can be pinched (entrapped) as a result. An orbital floor fracture can cause double vision or loss of vision which requires urgent medical care.
Recommended Treatment & Rehabilitation for a Black Eye
During a diagnosis of a black eye, a simple physical examination is all that is required. Your doctor will begin by asking you a series of questions regarding your eye injury.
The examination will include checking your vision, shining a light into the eyes to look at the pupils and inside the eye itself for any injury, testing the motion of the eye, and examining the facial bones around the eye.
Depending on the results of your physical exam, your doctor will perform the following tests below:
- Your doctor may add a dye on your injured eye and view it under a special light to check for abrasions to the eyeball or other objects.
- If your physician suspects a fracture to the bones of the face or around the orbit (eye), an X-ray or a computed tomography (CT) scan may be ordered. This can also be done if your doctor suspects that a small object is inside your eye.
The average recovery time for a black eye is about 2 weeks but can take more time depending on the severity of your injury. Therefore, vision therapy may be advised to help boost your recovery time. A physiotherapist may be able to design a healthy treatment for you to try elsewhere or at home. Some of these treatments will include:
- Ice application – Your physiotherapist will apply an ice pack to your black eye to help with the swelling and pain. He or she will then teach you how to use the ice pack at home and how often you will have to use it daily.
- Heat therapy – Your therapist may apply a warm compression to the affected eye. The warmth will help bring blood to the area, which speeds up the healing process.
- Elevation – Keeping the head elevated will help prevent fluid from accumulating under the eyes. Your physiotherapist will also advise you to use extra pillows at night to prop up your head while you sleep.
- Avoid future injuries – Your therapist will teach you ways to prevent further injury to your black eye. This may involve avoiding certain sports or activities and wearing protective eyewear when necessary.
After you have recovered most symptoms associated with a black eye, your physiotherapist will teach you a set of eye exercises that can help reduce symptoms and avoid experiencing vision difficulties. It is also important to note that patients with eye conditions such as glaucoma are unlikely to benefit from trying the exercises mentioned below:
Hold one finger a few inches away from one eye. Next, focus the gaze on the finger, then move the finger slowly away from the face. Focus on an object farther away, and then back on the finger. Bring the finger back closer to the eye. Finally, focus on an object farther away, and repeat the exercise 3 times a day.
Close your eyes, then slowly move the eyes upward, then downward. Repeat this three times. Move the eyes to the left, then to the right before repeating 3 times a day.
Figure of 8
Begin by focusing on an area on the floor around 8 feet away. Next, move the eyes in the shape of a figure 8. Finally, trace the imaginary figure 8 for 30 seconds, then switch direction.
Alternative & Homeopathic Treatment for a Black Eye
Luckily, there are several black eye home remedies, such as:
- Massage – You can massage your eye area once the swelling has subsided. Like a warm compress, this will support healing by promoting blood flow.
- Arnica – Also known as mountain tobacco, is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. In this case, there are arnica creams and gels that are traditionally used to treat bruises.
- Vitamin C – Most patients claim that vitamin C cream can heal a black eye. This may be due to the close link between vitamin C deficiency and easy bruising.
- Comfrey – Comfrey creams are used to treat injuries like strains, sprains, and bruises. However, use caution and follow instructions to ensure the cream does not apply to your eye.