Eye Should Know: Eye Emergency Types and First Aid

An eye emergency is a condition requiring immediate medical attention due to a sudden change in visual or ocular health. These emergencies include having a chemical or foreign object in your eye, or when an injury affects your eye and the sensitive areas around it. Without prompt and proper treatment, an eye emergency can lead to partial or complete loss of vision.

Indicators of an Eye Emergency

Eye emergencies cover a wide range of incidents and conditions. Do not hesitate to contact your eye doctor if it feels like you have something in your eye, or if you experience the following signs and symptoms of an eye emergency:

  • Burning or stinging
  • One eye is not moving normally or like the other eye
  • Pupils that differ in size
  • One eye is bulging
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both eyes
  • Sudden decreased vision
  • Double vision
  • Loss of vision
  • Increased light sensitivity
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Bleeding from the eye
  • Blood in the white areas of the eye
  • Bruising around the eye
  • Sudden and unbearable headaches
  • Severe redness, irritation, and itching
  • Retinal detachment of the eye

If your eye sustains an injury, or if you experience sudden vision loss, pain, swelling, or bleeding, ask your roommate or family member to take you to the emergency room immediately. Do not attempt to drive yourself to the hospital.

What Not to Do If You Have an Eye Emergency

If your eye has a cut or foreign object, or if you suffered from other forms of eye trauma, please DO NOT attempt to:

  • Rub or apply pressure to your eye
  • Remove any foreign objects lodged in the eye
  • Use tweezers or any other tools n your eye
  • Apply medications or ointments in your eye

If you wear contact lenses, do not remove them if you have an eye injury. Taking out your lenses can make the injury worse. An exception to this rule, however, is in situations where you have a chemical injury and your contact lenses did not flush out with water. Another exception is when you are unable to receive immediate medical assistance. Still, the best course of action is to get to your doctor’s office as soon as possible.

Managing Chemical Injuries to the Eye

Chemical burns to the eye or area around the eye are the consequence of cleaning products, insect repellants, industrial chemicals, or garden chemicals getting inside the eye. You can also endure chemical burns from fumes and aerosols entering your eye.

If you get acid into your eye, the good news is that early treatment commonly results in a good prognosis. However, alkaline products such as drain cleaners, lye, lime, or sodium hydroxide can cause permanent damage to your cornea.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to what you should do if you get chemicals in your eye:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water to remove any chemicals on them.
  • Turn your head, positioning the injured eye down and to the side.
  • Hold your eyelid open and flush the affected eye with clean and cool tap water under the sink for 15 minutes. You can also do this in the shower.
  • If you are wearing contact lenses and flushing did not remove them from your eyes, try to take them out as gently as possible.
  • Head to the emergency room or your local urgent care center as soon as possible. If you can, continue flushing your eye with clean water while a friend or family member drives you to the hospital. If you need an ambulance, make sure to ask someone in your home to call 911 before you finish flushing.

What to Do If You Have Large foreign Objects in the Eye

Having something stuck in your eye can cause eye damage or vision loss. Specifically, glass, metal, or other solid and relatively sizable objects that enter your eye, especially at a high speed, can cause serious harm.

If you suspect that a dangerous foreign object is in your eye, then leave it as is. Do not touch your eye, do not apply pressure, and do not try to remove the foreign body. This particular eye emergency requires an immediate trip to the emergency room. Avoid moving your eye too much while waiting for medical assistance.

What About Small Foreign Objects in the Eye?

Even something as miniscule as dirt or sand can cause redness and irritation.

Here are the steps you should take if you have a small foreign object (NOT including glass and metal) in your eye:

  • Do not rub your eye.
  • Try blinking to see if it helps clear your eye.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before touching your eye area.
  • Use a mirror to look into your eye and try to find the object. You can ask someone in your home to help you with this step.
  • Apply artificial tear eye drops to help rinse out the foreign object.
  • If the small foreign body is stuck on your upper or lower eyelid, flush it with water. If the object is stuck in your eye, flush it with cool water.
  • If your careful attempts at removing the object fails, or if the irritation persists, contact your doctor.

How to Handle Cuts in the Eye

Getting a cut or scratch on your eyelid or eyeball requires urgent medical care, especially when bleeding occurs. You may apply a loose gauze or bandage while you wait for treatment, but ensure not to apply any pressure.

How to Deal With a Black Eye or Blow to the Eye

Never underestimate a black eye. If something hits your eye or the area around it, the bleeding — yes, bleeding — under the skin is responsible for the dark discoloration.

Black eyes usually heal after a few weeks. However, a blow to the eye can potentially damage the inside of your eyeball or cause retinal detachment. Therefore, it is important to see a doctor if you sustain any form of eye trauma.

Always Protect Your Eyes

Eye emergencies can happen anywhere. In fact, much to the surprise of many, almost half of eye injuries occur at home.

Do not let a vision-impairing accident happen to you and your family. Read Eye Injury Prevention: Keeping Safe In Various Environments for a detailed guide on how to protect against eye injuries.

Have the Best Eye Doctor in Maricopa County Now
Did you know that you can reduce your chances of developing permanent eye damage by seeing an eye doctor following an injury? If you don’t already have a permanent eye doctor in Sun City, AZ, choose Arizona Retinal Specialists: the home of multi-awarded physicians and the inventor of LASIK eye surgery. Give us a call today at 623-474-3937 (EYES) to schedule a consultation and receive the high quality eye care services you need.


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