Not everyone will have an eye emergency, but everyone should know what to do in case of one. An eye emergency includes cuts and scratches to the eye, eye infections, foreign objects in the eye, burns, chemical exposure and eye injuries. Knowing what to do when an eye emergency happens can mean the difference between losing your vision and keeping it. Find out what the most common eye emergencies are and what to do when an eye emergency happens!
2.5 million eye emergencies occur annually resulting in about 50,000 experiencing partial or permanent loss of vision. That is a seriously high statistic. 90% of eye injuries can be prevented by using protective eyewear, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). Prevention is key.
Accidents involving household products (a.k.a. chemicals) cause around 125,000 of the eye injuries mentioned in the above statistic, according to the (AAO). Most cases involve small children exposed to household chemicals or sharp objects that weren’t put out of their grasp.
In fact, it is the young that have proven to be most at risk for eye emergencies. Those aged 0-18 have the highest number of eye emergency hospital visits from either an eye injury or eye condition, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In order to curb some of the fear that accompanies eye emergencies, be prepared with the knowledge of what to do when they strike.
Most eye emergencies fall into certain categories that can be thwarted with protective eyewear. Trauma, chemical injury, corneal injuries/foreign object in the eye and eye/eyelid lacerations are the most common categories of eye emergencies that we will discuss in more detail below.
Eye trauma doesn’t always produce immediate signs of injury. Think of how a black eye trauma progresses. A blow to the eye will produce some blackness, but the bruising doesn’t typically show for hours after the hit. Direct trauma to the face or eyes triggers 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.
If the bruising doesn’t dissipate after time, or if it is accompanied by persistent pain, and/or changes in vision, you should be evaluated immediately. 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 promote visual acuity. If you have a bloody eye, contact us immediately.
Chemical eye injuries pose some of the most serious of risks to your vision. If chemicals have entered your eye(s), immediately flush out the eye with large quantities of clean water or salt water (such as a saline solution. Washing as much of the chemical out of the eye is a vital part of ending injury to the eye and to your sight.
Professional evaluation of a chemical injuries to the eye should NEVER be delayed especially if the injured party is a child since eye development continues until about age 10.
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 to the tissues of the eye.
Use protective eyewear when handling household chemicals. Safeguard your home by putting all household products that are poisonous or harmful to children locked up and out of reach. Furthermore, assign age-appropriate household cleaning jobs to kids and give them natural products to use instead of chemically-laden ones.
Acid burns to the eye can usually be reversed if you get immediate help. Some chemicals will damage the delicate tissues of the eye beyond repair, so prepare and protect those you love from the dangerous results of chemical injuries to the eye.
The cornea of the eye is the sensitive transparent tissue covering the front part of the eye. One of the most common ways that corneal injuries occur in the eye is from rubbing the eye when a dust, sand, or an eyelash enters it. Rubbing the eye with these foreign objects present can cut the cornea causing symptoms like: redness, pain that is persistent, sensitivity to light or a visible cut.
Larger objects in the eye can seriously damage and destroy vision if the object enters the cornea or lens. High-speed object trauma can do even more damage. Children are more prone to putting objects in their eyes when playing, so put sharp objects out of reach. Again, prepare and protect. Think of worst-case scenarios before they happen and protect your house and family accordingly.
Eyelids lacerations are less common, but they happen. Especially in sports, work-related activities, hobbies or car accidents. Some cuts can go all the way through the eyelid. If your eye receives a laceration, first, call us. By consulting with a professional, you can prevent infections and further damage to the eyes.
Need some more advice for keeping your eyes safe and healthy? Our Denver optometrists will educate you on eye health and help you with wellness goals. A comprehensive exam can give you a pulse on where your eye health is currently. Call us at: (303) 223-0401 today to make an appointment. Our friendly staff is excited to meet you and help you with your vision needs!