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.
DO NOT attempt to treat a serious eye injury yourself.
Because eye injuries can cause serious vision loss, it’s important to be able to recognize an injury and appropriately respond to it.
How to recognize an eye injury
If you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone else, get medical help right away.
- The person has obvious pain or trouble seeing.
- The person has a cut or torn eyelid.
- One eye does not move as well as the other.
- One eye sticks out compared to the other.
- The eye has an unusual pupil size or shape.
- There is blood in the clear part of the eye.
- The person has something in the eye or under the eyelid that can't be easily removed.
The goal of the eye examination is to assess the severity of the injury so the patient can be treated as soon as is required. A normal eye examination
should be attempted, and may require a topical anesthetic in order to be tolerable.
The first step is to assess the external condition of the eye.
Depending on the medical history and preliminary examination, the primary care physician should designate the eye injury as a true emergency, urgent or
An emergency must be treated within minutes. This would include chemical burns of the conjunctiva and cornea.
An urgent case must be treated within hours. This includes penetrating globe injuries; corneal abrasions or corneal foreign bodies; hyphema; eyelid lacerations;
radiant energy burns such as arc eye (welder's burn) or snow blindness; or traumatic optic neuropathy.
Semi-urgent cases must be managed within 1–2 days. They include orbital fractures and subconjunctival hemorrhages.
What to do for an eye injury
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.
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.