Unfortunately injuries often occur to the eye or surrounding structures. At Glacier Eye clinic we see and treat many different types of injuries. Some injuries require surgery while others can be managed with a thorough evaluation, medications, and time. While all injuries should be thoroughly evaluated there is some prevention and first aid information listed below.
Any activity where something might fly at the eye puts the eye at risk for an injury. Over one million people suffer eye injuries each year in the United States. Almost 50% of these accidents occur at home, and more than 90% of them could have been prevented.
Minor injuries to the cornea, the clear, protective covering over the front of the eye, can be quite painful. A corneal abrasion is a scratch to the cornea. Appropriate treatment may include an antibiotic eyedrop or ointment to prevent infection and an eye patch for comfort. Sand or other particles can stick to the cornea. Such foreign bodies may be removed with a moistened cotton swab, usually by a doctor. Do not rub the eye.
Regular prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses do not protect the eyes from injury. Some glasses and some types of contact lenses shatter if the eye is hit. People who play sports and wear prescription eyeglasses can have special safety glasses or prescription goggles made of high-impact polycarbonate plastic lenses and special unbreakable frames.
Unfortunately, many people do not think they are at risk for an eye injury until the injury occurs. The majority of eye injuries are easily prevented. Use common sense to reduce the risk of injuries, and be sure to follow safety precautions, including the following:
When an eye injury does occur, have an ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) or other medical doctor examine the eye as soon as possible. Although the injury may not look or feel serious, it could cause serious damage to your eyes. If you have blurred vision, partial loss of vision, double vision, or sharp pains in your eye after an accident, see an ophthalmologist or go to a hospital emergency room right away.
The most common type of eye injury that needs immediate action is a chemical burn. Alkaline materials (lye, plaster, cement, and ammonia) can cause severe damage and even blindness. Solvents, acids, and detergents also can be very harmful to the eye. Eyes should be flushed liberally with water if exposed to any of these agents.
If sterile solutions or eye washes are readily available, use them to flush the affected eye. If not, go to the nearest sink, shower, or hose and immediately begin washing the eye with large amounts of water. If the eye has come in contact with an alkaline agent, it is important to flush the eye for at least 10 minutes or more before even considering going to the doctor. Make sure water is getting under the upper and lower eyelids. After at least 10 minutes of flushing, transport the patient to the nearest emergency room.
Abrasions or scratches of the eyelids and cornea, the clear covering of the eye, occur frequently and can be quite uncomfortable. If the abrasion is dirty, gently cleanse the area with a stream of clean water.
Do not attempt to treat severe blunt trauma or penetrating injuries to the eye. Tape a paper or Styrofoam cup over the injured eye to protect it until proper care can be obtained. Try to avoid strenuous activity if such an injury has occurred and seek proper medical care immediately.
In the case of a blow to the eye, do not assume the injury is minor. The eye should be examined thoroughly by an ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) because vision-threatening damage such as an intraocular bleed or a retinal detachment could be hidden.
First aid is only the first step for emergency treatment. If you experience pain, impaired vision, or any possibility of eye damage, call your ophthalmologist or go the emergency room immediately.