Emergency Eye Care

When an eye injury does occur, have an ophthalmologist or other medical doctor examine the eye as soon as possible, even if the injury seems minor at first.

A serious eye injury is not always immediately obvious. Delaying medical attention can cause the damaged areas to worsen and could result in permanent vision loss or blindness.

For all eye injuries:

DO NOT touch, rub or apply pressure to the eye.
DO NOT try to remove the object stuck in the eye.
Do not apply ointment or medication to the eye.
See a doctor as soon as possible, preferably an ophthalmologist.

If your eye has been cut or punctured:

Gently place a shield over the eye. The bottom of a paper cup taped to the bones surrounding the eye can serve as a shield until you get medical attention.

DO NOT rinse with water.
DO NOT remove the object stuck in eye.
DO NOT rub or apply pressure to eye.
Avoid giving aspirin, ibuprofen or other non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs thin the blood and may increase bleeding.

After you have finished protecting the eye, see a physician immediately.

If you get a particle or foreign material in your eye:

DO NOT rub the eye.
Lift the upper eyelid over the lashes of your lower lid.
Blink several times and allow tears to flush out the particle.
If the particle remains, keep your eye closed and seek medical attention.

In case of a chemical burn to the eye:

Immediately flush the eye with plenty of clean water
Seek emergency medical treatment right away

Flush with cool tap water immediately. Turn the person's head so the injured eye is down and to the side. Holding the eyelid open, allow running water from the faucet to flush the eye for 15 minutes. If both eyes are affected, or if the chemicals are also on other parts of the body, have the victim take a shower. If the person is wearing contact lenses and the lenses did not flush out from the running water, have the person try to remove the contacts AFTER the flushing procedure. Continue to flush the eye with clean water or saline while seeking urgent medical attention. After following the above instructions, seek medical help immediately.

To treat a blow to the eye:

Gently apply a small cold compress to reduce pain and swelling.
DO NOT apply any pressure.
If a black eye, pain or visual disturbance occurs even after a light blow, immediately contact your Eye M.D. or emergency room.
Remember that even a light blow can cause a significant eye injury.

To treat sand or small debris in the eye:

Use eyewash to flush the eye out.
DO NOT rub the eye.
If the debris doesn't come out, lightly bandage the eye and see an Eye M.D. or visit the nearest emergency room.

Loss of vision

Contact an eye doctor or go to the emergency room immediately. Most serious forms of vision loss are painless, and the absence of pain in no way diminishes the urgent need to get medical care. Many forms of vision loss only give you a short amount of time to be successfully treated.

Scratched eye

If the eyeball has been injured, get medical help immediately. Gently apply cold compresses to reduce swelling and help stop any bleeding. DO NOT apply pressure to control bleeding. If blood is pooling in the eye, cover both of the person's eyes with a clean cloth or sterile dressing, and get medical help.

Protruding eye

Bulging of a single eye, especially in a child, is a very serious sign and should be evaluated immediately.

Blood in the white of the eye

Call your eye doctor if you have a hemorrhage in both eyes at the same time or if the subconjunctival hemorrhage coincides with other symptoms of bleeding including easy bruising, bleeding gums, or both. Go to your eye doctor immediately if you have a subconjunctival hemorrhage and you have pain associated with the hemorrhage, changes in vision (for example, blurry vision, double vision, difficulty seeing), history of a bleeding disorder, history of high blood pressure, or injury from trauma to the eye.

Something embedded in the eye or under the eyelid

Leave the object in place. DO NOT try to remove the object. DO NOT touch it or apply any pressure to it. Calm and reassure the person. Wash your hands. Bandage both eyes. If the object is large, place a paper cup or cone over the injured eye and tape it in place. Cover the uninjured eye with gauze or a clean cloth. If the object is small, cover both eyes with a clean cloth or sterile dressing. Even if only one eye is affected, covering both eyes will help prevent eye movement. Get medical help immediately.

Abnormal pupil size or shape

You should see a doctor if you have persistent, unexplained, or sudden changes in pupil size. The new development of different sized pupils may be a sign of a very serious condition. If you have differing pupil size after an eye or head injury, get medical help immediately.

Eye Injury Facts and Myths

Men are more likely to sustain an eye injury than women.
Most people believe that eye injuries are most common on the job especially in the course of work at factories and construction sites. But, in fact, nearly half (44.7 percent) of all eye injuries occurred in the home, as reported during the fifth-annual Eye Injury Snapshot (conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Ocular Trauma). More than 40 percent of eye injuries reported in the Eye Injury Snapshot were caused by projects and activities such as home repairs, yard work, cleaning and cooking. More than a third (34.2 percent) of injuries in the home occurred in living areas such as the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, living or family room.

More than 40 percent of eye injuries every year are related to sports or recreational activities.
Eyes can be damaged by sun exposure, not just chemicals, dust or objects.

Among all eye injuries reported in the Eye Injury Snapshot, more than 78 percent of people were not wearing eyewear at the time of injury. Of those reported to be wearing eye-wear of some sort at the time of injury (including glasses or contact lenses), only 5.3 percent were wearing safety or sports glasses.

Ophthalmology and Eye Injuries

Nearly a dozen ophthalmology organizations are working together to help reduce the rate of eye injuries by encouraging people to wear protective eye-wear.

Eye Injury Prevention Resources

Eye Injury Prevention at Home
Eye Injury Prevention at Work
Children‚s Eye Injuries: Prevention and Care
Protective Eyewear