Emergency Eye Care
What Is Emergency Eye Care?
Emergency eye care is required when a chemical or foreign object enters the eye, causing an injury or burn to the eye. An eye injury may cause loss of vision, bleeding, swelling, and pain. It is important to seek medical attention when this type of injury or incident occurs. Without appropriate care, eye emergencies can lead to partial vision loss or complete blindness.
Eye emergencies can have a range of symptoms and severity. If these symptoms are due to something being in your eye, it is important to contact your doctor. The following symptoms are common to emergency eye care and may require medical attention:
- Blurred vision, decreased vision, or loss of vision
- Burning or stinging
- Pupils are different sizes
- Bulging eye
- Double vision
- Eye pain
- Light sensitivity
- Red and irritated eyes
- Bruising around the eye
- Bleeding from the eye, or blood in the white of the eye
- Discharge from the eye
- Severe itching
- New or severe headaches
If you have experienced an eye injury and notice sudden vision loss, bleeding, swelling, pus, or pain, please seek medical attention immediately by going to the emergency room or an urgent care facility. Symptoms common for immediate emergency care include:
- Eye pain is abnormally severe, along with headache, heightened light sensitivity, or fever
- Sudden vision change
- If eye pain is accompanied by nausea or vomiting
- Seeing halos around lights
- Caused by a chemical entering the eye or a foreign object in the eye
- Significant swelling around the eye
- Difficulties moving the eye or keeping the eye open
- Blood or pus coming from the eye
Common Eye Emergencies
There are several types of eye emergencies. Certain eye issues recommend contacting your doctor, while other eye emergencies require immediate medical attention. Common eye emergencies that require immediate medical attention include:
- Chemical splash in the eye
- Foreign object in the eye
- Blunt force trauma to the eye
- Penetration to the eye
- Headache with nausea and vomiting
- Sudden vision loss
- Sudden double vision in both eyes
- Severe headache with eye pressure
- Swelling around the accompanied by vision loss
- Sudden onset of floaters or “dark curtain”
- Sudden onset of new flashes of light
What to Do if You Have an Eye Injury
In the case of an eye injury, it is important to consult a medical professional, or visit an emergency room or urgent care if it is an eye emergency. Serious complications can arise from eye injuries, so it is not recommended to try and treat these types of injuries on your own. Although it may be tempting to treat the injury yourself, avoid doing the following:
- Trying to remove the foreign object from your eye
- Rubbing or applying pressure to the eye
- Using tweezers or any other tools on your eye (cotton swabs are permitted, but only on your eyelid)
- Putting medications or ointments on your eye
If you wear contact lenses, do not try to take them out if you’ve suffered an eye injury, as this can make the injury worse. The only exception to this is if a chemical gets into the eye and water did not flush the chemical out of the lenses. The best course of action with an eye injury is to consult with a medical professional or go to the emergency room or urgent care for an eye emergency.
Chemical burns may happen when certain cleaning agents, gardening chemicals, or industrial chemicals get into the eye. It is also possible to experience chemical burns from certain aerosols and fumes. If acid gets into your eyes, the prognosis is generally good. However, if the acid is from drain cleaners, sodium hydroxide, lye or lime, it may cause more permanent damage to the cornea.
There are helpful steps to be taken if a chemical gets in your eyes. The steps include:
- Wash all remaining chemicals off your hands with soap and water
- Turn your head so the injured eye is facing downward and to the side
- Holding the eyelid open, flush with cool water for 15 minutes over the sink or in the shower
- Attempt to remove contact lenses if they are still on your eyes after you’ve flushed with water for 15 minutes
- Have someone take you to the emergency room or urgent care. If possible, continue to flush the eye with water while you wait to be attended to
Cuts and Scratches
Cuts and scratches to the eye or eyeball require urgent medical attention. If you are bleeding, a loose bandage may be necessary, but it is important to not apply pressure. If a scratch or cut to the eye has happened, please seek emergency care.
It is possible to get a small or large foreign object stuck in your eye. If this happens, you may need immediate medical attention. This type of eye emergency can cause vision loss or eye damage. There are several steps you can take before getting medical attention to get a small foreign object out of the eye or eyelid. The steps include:
- Blink several times to see if this clears the eye of the object, and do not rub the eye.
- Make sure to wash your hands before touching your eye and look on the eyeball and underneath the bottom and upper eyelids
- Use eye drops to try and flush out the object
- Try flushing the object from your eye or eyelid with cool water
- If the small object cannot be flushed, contact your doctor
Large foreign objects in the eye require a different type of attention. Metal, glass, or other hard or sharp large objects that enter the eye at a high rate of speed can cause significant damage. It is critical that you do not try to remove the object if it is stuck in your eye. Leave the object exactly where it is. Do not try to touch, remove, or apply pressure to the eye or object. Seek immediate medical attention by visiting the ER or going to an urgent care facility. While waiting for medical help, it is imperative to limit eye movement as much as possible. If the object is small enough, drape a light clean cloth over both eyes to help limit eye movement.
A black eye can happen when the eye or surrounding area is hit forcefully by a foreign object. This level of impact can cause bruising and swelling around the eye. Often, the bruising will start with a black and blue coloring, and as it heals, it will change to a purple, green, and yellow. This is due to bleeding under the surface of the skin.
If there has been a blow to the eye or blunt force trauma, it is important to consult with a doctor, as this can cause eye damage. If the black eye was sustained through a skull fracture, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
Eye injuries are common and can be caused by a variety of different things. It is important to be proactive about creating a safe environment for your home and taking protective measures if you play a contact sport or work with cleaning, gardening, or industrial chemicals. Steps you can take to decrease the risk of eye injury include:
- Wear protective eyewear if involved in high-risk activities where there might be the use of power tools, projectiles, chemicals, or potential forceful contact to the eye area
- Create a home environment that is safe for children, such as removing sharp or pointed objects from the child’s reach, or putting soft coverings over pointed hard surfaces
- Read and follow all the direction when working with products that contain chemicals
- Keep children away from projectile items, such as darts and pellet guns
- Teach children how to use scissors or sharp items appropriately, and supervise when possible
- Keep your distance from fireworks, specifically amateur fireworks
- Use caution when cooking with oil and grease
- Keep heated hair tools, such as flat irons and curling irons, away from the eye
With eye injuries, it is important to consult with a doctor to prevent any permanent eye damage from occurring.
Next Steps with MyChart
Discover MyChart, a free patient portal that combines your Baptist Health medical records into one location. Schedule appointments, review lab results, financials, and more! If you have questions, give us a call.