Here’s How to Tell if You Are Suffering from an Eye Emergency

Have you ever scratched your eye or splashed it with a chemical and wondered if you needed emergency care? A quick Google search may say to call your eye doctor, while another search may recommend flushing your eye with cool water.

At Eye See Ravenswood, we understand the worry and frustration that can occur when you have an eye emergency. That’s why we’re here to help you learn when your eye injury is an emergency and when to seek care.

Symptoms of an eye injury

We recommend seeking immediate medical attention anytime you experience swelling, redness, or pain in your eye, especially if it occurs after an injury or having a foreign object or chemical in your eye. When left untreated, these injuries can damage your eye even more, leading to partial and/or permanent blindness.

If you’ve injured your eye and experience symptoms, you may also need emergency eye care. While not all eye injuries require emergency care, we suggest seeking immediate medical attention if you have:

  • Vision loss
  • Different size pupils
  • Double vision
  • Bleeding from the eye
  • Swelling
  • Eye pain that doesn’t lessen on its own
  • Eye pain accompanied by a headache

Some eye scratches may also need medical care. If you think you’ve scratched your eye but you don’t know with what, don’t rub it, which can make your scratch worse. Instead, try rapidly blinking your eye to see if you can remove the debris.

Wash your hands and look in your eye to see if you can find anything. Look under both your bottom and top lid (use a cotton swab to flip your upper lid and allow you to see underneath it). Opt for artificial tear eyedrops to flush your eye and rinse away any foreign object. If this doesn’t solve your problem, seek emergency eye care.

Specific eye injuries that require emergency care

With certain eye injuries, it doesn’t matter what type of symptoms you’re having — you should seek emergency medical attention. For instance, if you have glass, metal, or plastic enter your eye at high speeds, it can become stuck in your eye. Do not remove it on your own, and try to keep eye movement to a minimum. Leave the object in place and head to your closest emergency center.

If you get a harsh chemical in your eye, we recommend the following:

  • Wash your hands before looking at your eye
  • Turn your head to the side so your injured eye is down
  • Hold open the eyelid and rinse the eye with cool tap water for 15 minutes
  • Remove your contacts
  • Head to the closest emergency room or urgent care
  • Continue flushing your eye while you wait to see the doctor

Anytime the eye or the skin surrounding the eye receives a blow or gets cut, you should seek emergency medical care. Use a clean cloth to cover your eyes until you can see the doctor.

Avoid further eye damage

Once your eye is injured, it’s important that you don’t do further damage. Some important things to avoid include:

  • Rubbing your injured eye
  • Taking out your contacts unless you experience rapid swelling or a chemical injury
  • Removing a foreign object that’s embedded in your eye
  • Using tweezers or cotton swabs directly on your eye

Many eye emergencies can be treated with little lasting effect, but you must seek medical attention right away. When left untreated, some eye injuries can lead to permanent damage, including blindness.

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