Most Common Eye Injuries and How to Treat Them

Eye injuries can be extremely serious and require immediate attention.  Although some conditions can be resolved without a visit to the eye doctor, in any case of eye injury in which there is doubt as to the severity of the damage, you should seek care from an emergency doctor or ophthalmologist.  Below is a list of the most common eye injuries with advice on how to treat them:

  1. Corneal abrasion, or a scratched eye, is an injury that should receive medical attention. Corneal abrasions are very painful and result in redness of the eye and often an extreme sensitivity to light.  A doctor is necessary as they will be able to investigate the scratch to avoid the risk of infection.  If you know you have scratched your eye, do not rub it and, if you can, cover it with a paper cup or clear eye shield until you can be seen by a doctor.
  2. Foreign objects in the eye can pose real threats. Small objects, like grains of sand or particles of dirt, should be able to be washed out with water.  Avoid Q-tips, tissues, or any other item that you might be tempted to use to dislodge the foreign body as it is far more likely that you will scratch your eye with these items. Wash your eye with slightly warm tap water or saline water to dislodge a small object, but if that does not work, seek emergency care.  If the object is metal, go immediately as metal bodies can become lodged in the cornea and can form rust rings that could result in significant scarring.  Again, the best thing to be done prior to seeing a doctor is to protect the eye with a paper cup or eye shield.  Patches are not recommended if the surface of the eye has been penetrated because infection-causing bacteria thrive in damp, dark places.
  3. Chemical exposure to the eye can be very dangerous. If strong acids or alkali bases make contact with the eye, seek medical help and then immediately wash the affected eye or eyes with water.  Eye flushing is critical in cases of a chemical burn and time is of the essence.  Make for the nearest eye wash station or sink as soon as any chemical, regardless of its strength, makes contact with your eyes, and be prepared to flush them with water for at least fifteen to twenty minutes.  This amount of time will help keep corrosive damage to an absolute minimum.  What is important in an eye wash is the amount of water used.  Water fountains and sinks are both fine options for eye wash stations.  It might be necessary to get someone’s help in order to keep your eye open.  The eye must be kept open so that copious amounts of water can rinse the entire surface of the eye.  If using a sink, cup your hands and bring your face to the running water.  If outside, a hose will work perfectly.  When you speak with an emergency center, report exactly what substance entered your eye.  Be careful to not rub the eye, but you may apply a cool, moist compress or an ice pack to the eye.  As with any eye injury, take extraordinary care and make medical contact if you have the slightest hesitation about the state of your eyes.  If you experience extreme redness or blurred vision, seek emergency help.
  4. Black eye is typically treated with an ice pack. However, protracted eye swelling after an impact from sports or activity should be looked at by a doctor.
  5. Subconjunctival hemorrhages, or eye bleeding, is another injury that, like a black eye, looks alarming, but requires simply patience to treat. A subconjunctival hemorrhage creates a bloody spot on the white of the eye.  They are leakages in blood vessels near the surface of the eye and can be the result of very minor injuries.  They are painless and will subside over the course of several weeks.  Severe trauma to the region of the eye can result in a hyphema, bleeding in the anterior chamber of the eye, or even an orbital blowout fracture in the bones that surround the eyes.  In the case of these injuries, or any severe blow to the region of the eyes, seek an emergency doctor or ophthalmologist as soon as possible.

Eye injuries are no minor matter.  Treat every incident of eye trauma as potentially dangerous and take all necessary precaution—for example, protective eyewear.  Be sure to provide as accurate a description of the injury as possible to medical professionals and always indicate to a doctor if you wear contact lenses.  This is key information for treatment.