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Eye Emergencies- Prevention, Treatment and When To See An Eye Doctor

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If you are experiencing an eye emergency, you will want to call an ambulance or head to the ER or even an optometrist in some cases. In some cases, there are a few steps you can take to start treating your eye right away.


What To Do During an Eye Emergency

Our eyes are often the first sensation we use to perceive our reality. In return, they are exposed to hazards, pollutants and everyday wear and tear. For such delicate organs, it is lucky we do not often experience eye emergencies that could impact our vision.

There are times when you definitely need to call an emergency eye doctor immediately, and other times when a few informed actions could protect your eye from further damage or a trip to the optometrist for an eye emergency. If you are experiencing the following symptoms, you should call an optometrist, or HealthLink at 811 if you’re unsure if your symptoms warrant attention:

  • Scratches, cuts, scrapes or trauma to, or around, the eye
  • Discharge or signs of infection
  • Burning, stinging or eye pain
  • Itchiness

Of course, there are times when you absolutely need to pay a visit to the ER, such as:

  • UV/chemical/heat burns
  • Infection
  • Sudden blindness, or continued decreased vision accompanied by pain
  • Bleeding from the eyes
  • Intense pain or stinging
  • Paralysis
  • Floaters or floating light in your field of vision
  • Bulging of an eye or your eye has fallen out of its socket

If you experience any of the following, here are a few general first aid tips to help you protect and treat your eye. These should accompany a phone call or visit an eye doctor as well.


Consult An Eye Professional

The first thing you should do in an eye emergency is probably intuitive, but call your eye care professional, visit an emergency eye clinic, or head to the emergency room. It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to eye emergencies, rather than risk your vision. At Market mall optometry, a qualified optometrist will be able to advise and treat your eye concern rather than having you doing it yourself and possibly causing further damage. We offer comprehensive vision services, including eye examseye emergency care, and cataract management, to ensure we meet all your needs.


Cuts and Debris

As a general rule for eye emergencies, don’t touch or rub your eyes even if they feel itchy or like something is in there. Instead, you could try flushing it with an eyewash station or splash cool water into your open eyes and try to blink it out. If you think you may have cut or scratched the surface of your eye, it may feel itchy, stinging or burning but resist the urge to rub it. Try blinking and otherwise leave it alone. You’ll want to visit an optometrist to decipher the cause and the extent of the cut. On your way, you could cover your closed eye with some loose gauze packed gently over your closed eyelid and held in place with some medical tape, for example, to keep from rubbing it. 


Heat and Chemical Burns

The two most important things to remember when experiencing a heat or chemical burn are getting medical attention and flushing the eye with cool water. If you’ve suffered a heat burn to the eyes, the idea is to cool the eye gradually. You could fill up a large bowl of slightly cool or lukewarm water (not cold) and dip your eyes in a while, keeping them open to let the water travel to all the areas of the eye. You’ll want to do this for at least 10 minutes intermittently, and make sure to call an ambulance so that they can follow up with the following steps right away rather than having to travel to the hospital. 

Suppose chemicals have come in contact with your eyes during chemical eye emergencies. In that case, you will want to flush your eyes with running water for at least 30 minutes before attempting to travel to the hospital, and again, call an ambulance if possible. You’ll want to have someone find the WHIMIS sheets that describe what to do for that particular chemical in an eye emergency. However, in general, the key for chemical burns is to use running water to flush the eye, as still water will become contaminated and will not flush the chemical out. Some options include an eyewash station, a shower stream, or even a running faucet. If those options are unavailable, use a water bottle or splash water on your face- just make sure not to use contaminated water. Do this until the ambulance arrives.
 

Bulging or Dislodged Eye

It’s not everyday your eye falls out of the socket (for most of us), which can be a very upsetting experience. However, it is not always an eye emergency that results from a traumatic injury, and some people can do this disturbing party trick on command. Although usually your eye only becomes slightly dislodged, which can be uncomfortable and affect your vision, it can happen very easily when inserting contact lenses, “popping your ears,” or even sneezing too hard. If your eye is bulging out of the socket or has fallen out, do not attempt to put it back. Soak a gauze compress or paper towel with water or contact lens solution and hold it on the eye without pressure. Close your other eye or cover it as well to minimize eye movement, as your affected eye may move involuntarily as well. Consult an eye care professional to have your eye corrected into position with minimal damage to your vision or optic nerve. 

Many injuries may constitute an eye emergency. If you are experiencing a blow to the eye, burns, cuts, foreign objects or anything else that causes pain, bleeding or vision loss, call your emergency eye care professional. 

 

Related Reading:

7 Warning Signs You Require Immediate Eye Emergency Care

6 Signs You Need to Visit an Emergency Eye Doctor

 

FAQ

Why visit an eye doctor instead of the emergency department?

An optometrist has focused experience diagnosing and treating eye conditions and is trained specifically to handle eyes and prevent vision loss. While there are many eye emergencies an optometrist can help with, however, it is always a good idea to call ahead and ask if they can help.

Is an eye infection an emergency?

An eye infection can be an emergency, especially an infection of the cornea, which evolves quickly. Even if you think it is “just” pink eye, other eye conditions can present similar symptoms but require more close attention. If you are experiencing symptoms of an eye infection, consult your eye care professional. 

Are red eyes a serious eye concern?

Red eyes can be a sign of minor irritation or something more concerning such as dry eyes or an eye infection. If your red-eye symptoms continue to be present for more than a day, book an appointment with an optometrist near you. 

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