Nobody plans for an eye emergency, but they happen, and usually not at a time that is convenient. Eye emergencies can be caused by any number of reasons such as allergic reaction, trauma, chemical injuries, injuries to the cornea or foreign object in the eye, and eyelid lacerations. The good news is that many eye emergencies can be treated without permanent damage. Always be prepared and learn the difference between an eye emergency and a medical condition so you may know how best to care for your eyes if something happens. The most important thing you can do with an eye emergency is to contact your doctor immediately—even on the weekend. This is essential for preserving your eyesight and visual acuity and to correct problems before they become worse. At Optical Masters, we can give you an overview of common eye emergencies and what to do.
Each year more than 2.5 million eye injuries occur and of that number, around 50,000 permanently lose all or part of their vision. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) reports that accidents involving household products (a.k.a. chemicals) cause around 125,000 eye injuries each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that those between 0-18 have the highest number of eye emergency visits to a hospital from either an injury or medical condition. According to the AAO, an estimated 90% of eye injuries can be prevented by using protective eyewear. Most people do not plan for or prepare for eye injuries. Small children can easily get into household chemicals or sharp objects, so prevention thorough preparation is key to avoiding disaster.
Eye emergencies can be very scary when they happen, especially if you’re not prepared and don’t know what to do when they occur. Eye injuries are vast, but most fall into specific common categories and most can be avoided with protective eyewear. Common injuries are due to trauma, chemical injury, corneal injuries/foreign object in the eye and eye/eyelid lacerations.
When it comes to trauma to an eye, the symptoms or effects will not always be immediately noticeable. An example is a black eye. You may get hit in the eye one day, but not see the bruise until the next day. Direct trauma to the face or eyes tends to result in bleeding under the skin in the tissues. With a black eye, the bruise colors can range from black to purple, green, yellow or just plain red. Contact us if the bruising lasts a long time if there is persistent pain, and especially if you see any changes in vision. When the eye is directly hit, this can result in blood inside the front of the eye (so a bloody eye where blood vessels have popped). This is referred to as a “hyphema”. This is more serious than a black eye, as the pressure and buildup of fluid or blood can cause serious damage to different parts of the eye that allow you to see. If you have a bloody eye, contact us immediately.
These are some of the most serious eye injuries, as many chemicals can do various things to your eyes. If your eyes have come in contact with chemicals, immediately flush out the eye with large amounts of clean water or saltwater (such as a saline solution) immediately. This can get rid of a large part of the chemical that is injuring your eye and vision. NEVER wait to get help with chemical injuries, especially if it is an injury in a child, as their eyes continue to develop until age 10 or so. Not only can household chemicals and products (think cleaning products, garden chemicals, solvents, etc.) cause eye injuries, but even fumes and aerosols can cause chemical burns as well. Be prepared to use protective eyewear when handling household chemicals. Good home preparation would be to keep all household products that are poisonous or harmful to children locked up where they can’t get to them (because they definitely will). If chemical injuries occur in the form of acid burns, these can usually be corrected over time if you seek immediate attention. Some chemicals will damage the delicate tissues of the eye beyond repair, so always be prepared and careful around chemicals.
Many cuts on the eye occur on the cornea, or the sensitive transparent tissue covering the front part of the eye. It is common for a person to unknowingly injure their eye by rubbing it when dust, sand or other particles are present. These can cause lacerations and injury to the cornea. A corneal injury will usually produce one or more common symptoms: redness, pain that is persistent, sensitivity to light or a visible cut. It is always a smart idea to prepare beforehand and keep a simple eyedrop solution with you to keep eyes moist throughout the day or to clean out any dust or particles that are in the eye. This is especially helpful if you get an eyelash in your eye (because even that is uncomfortable).
As for major objects in the eye (regardless of size), these can seriously damage and destroy your vision if the object enters the cornea or lens. Objects that come in contact with the eye at high speeds can do even more damage. Children are especially prone to objects in the eye when playing, so always make sure children are not around sharp or small objects that could harm them. Anything and everything can happen if you’re not prepared.
Eyelids do not always become injured but if you are hit or sustain an injury (like a black eye), lacerations can easily happen. Some cuts can go all the way through the eyelid. Always protect your eyes when doing obvious activities where harm can occur (like working in a workshop). Avoid infections and further damage to the eyes by contacting us so we can rule out any signs of a more serious injury.
Eyes guide us through our daily activities and help us interpret the world around us. Without our eyes, we wouldn’t be able to easily manage our daily tasks, see those around us, work in many professional settings and more. The key to preventing eye injuries is to always be prepared and then know what to do when they happen. If ANY trauma or injury occurs to the eyes, don’t hesitate to get help. We can help prevent vision loss with professional emergency advice and counsel you on what you should do. Keep up on your annual eye exams and eye health. If an eye emergency ever occurs, call our Optical Masters office at (720) 780-8881 for immediate help.