Eye emergencies cover a range of incidents and conditions such as trauma, cuts, scratches, foreign objects in the eye, burns, chemical exposure, and blunt injuries to the eye or eyelid. Serious complications can occur from an eye injury, and without proper treatment can lead to a partial loss of vision. Likewise, certain eye infections, other medical conditions, such as blood clots or glaucoma, and eye problems, such as a painful red eye or vision loss that are not due to injury, also need urgent medical attention.
Bleeding or other discharge from or around the eye
Loss of vision, total or partial, in one eye or both
Pupils of unequal size
New or severe headaches
Eye redness or bloodshot appearance
A sensation of something in the eye
Sensitivity to light
Stinging or burning in the eye
A black eye is usually caused by direct trauma to the eye or face, causing a bruise resulting from bleeding under the skin. The skin around the eye turns black and blue, gradually becoming purple, green, and yellow over several days. Swelling of the eyelid and tissues around the eye may also occur. The abnormal color usually disappears within 2 weeks.
A blow to the eye can potentially damage the inside of the eye. Trauma is also a common cause of hyphemia, which is blood inside the front of the eye and is often due to a direct hit to the eye from a ball. Certain types of skull fractures can also cause bruising around the eyes, even without direct injury to the eye.
A chemical injury to the eye can be caused by a work-related accident, common household products such as cleaning solutions, garden chemicals, solvents, or other types of chemicals. Fumes and aerosols can also cause chemical burns. With acid burns, the haze on the cornea often clears, and there is a good chance of recovery. However, alkaline substances such as lime, lye, drain cleaners, and sodium hydroxide found in refrigeration equipment may cause permanent damage to the cornea. It is essential to flush out the eye with large amounts of clean water or salt water (saline).
Photic retinopathy, also known as foveomacular retinitis or solar retinopathy, is damage to the eye’s retina, particularly the macula, from prolonged exposure to solar radiation or other bright light, such as lasers or arc welders. It usually occurs due to staring at the sun; watching a solar eclipse; or viewing an ultraviolet, illuminant D65, or other bright light. Immediate evaluation by your doctor is advised.
In case of an eye injury, cut, or trauma, gently apply a clean cold compress to the eye to reduce swelling and help stop the bleeding. Do not, however, apply pressure to control bleeding. If blood is pooling in the eye, cover both eyes with a clean cloth or sterile dressing and call your doctor immediately.
In case of eye injury, DO NOT:
rub or apply pressure to your eye
try to remove foreign objects that are stuck in any part of your eye
use tweezers or any other tools in your eye (cotton swabs can be used, but only on the eyelid)
Attempting to remove contact lenses from an injured eye can make the injury worse. The only exceptions to this rule are where there is a chemical injury and the lenses didn’t flush out with water, or where immediate medical help cannot be received.
Eye injuries can happen anywhere. The risk of injury can be reduced by wearing protective eyewear, following the directions carefully when working with chemicals or cleaning supplies, and keeping scissors, knives, and other sharp instruments away from young children.
To decrease the chances of developing permanent eye damage, immediate medical evaluation is necessary in the event of an eye injury.