The eyes are delicate, sensitive organs. If you’ve ever gotten a single particle of sand in there, you’d know the distress it can cause. More serious injuries to the eye can result in permanent vision loss, whether immediately or later on. Having a basic understanding of what to do for an eye injury is beneficial for both yourself and the other eyeballs you may be responsible for (such as dependent children or others in your workplace). However, if ever in doubt, always remember to call emergency services or refer on to a medical specialist depending on the nature of the injury.
What Should I Do If… I Get a Scratch in my Eye
Think getting poked by a bush while gardening or being on the receiving end of your baby’s flailing hands and fingernails. Scratches to the eye’s surface are not uncommon and can range from a mild short-lived irritation to a debilitating pain.
Symptoms of a scratch or abrasion to the eye include pain or irritation, redness, watering, or the sensation that a particle is stuck in there. Depending on the exact location of the scratch, you may also experience light sensitivity (photophobia) and blurred vision.
Immediately after receiving the scratch, it may help to keep your affected eye closed to minimize the friction of your eyelids over the sore area with each blink. You can also consider applying a lubricating eye drop to cushion the surface of the eye; this drop will need to be reapplied often. The thicker and more viscous the liquid is (for example, a lubricant gel versus a watery drop), the better comfort it will provide. However, do not use any eye drops containing medication or those which are marketed for clearing a red eye and avoid wearing contact lenses until the eye feels back to normal.
If your discomfort and eye irritation doesn’t resolve over the next 24 hours, or if it begins to worsen, your vision deteriorates, your eye becomes increasingly red and painful, or develops discharge, the best course of action is to see your optometrist or ophthalmologist immediately.
What Should I Do If… I Get Something Stuck in There
Sand, dirt, grit, eyelashes, other unidentified tiny particles… they can all have a penchant for making their home under your eyelid, which can make for a very unhappy eye.
Symptoms of a foreign particle stuck in the eye include, well, feeling like there’s something stuck in the eye. You may also find your eye watering and light sensitive, which can impact your sight.
The most obvious course of action is to try and flush out the particle. Use sterile saline if you have it, otherwise clean tap water is also sufficient. Don’t rub the eye as this can result in the particle leaving scratches all over the eye’s surface and exacerbate your discomfort.
If after spending a good deal of time and saline trying to wash out your eye and it still feels like something is lodged in there, attend to either your local eye-care provider or your hospital emergency department.
What Should I Do If… I Experience Blunt Trauma
Blunt trauma to the eye can come from various sources, including a punch or other physical blow, balls, or other sports equipment, or even accidentally bending over too close to the corner of your side table.
If you’ve just been hit in the eye, you probably know why, but what you might not know is the impact the blow may have had on your eyeball structures. Even an apparently light amount of force can still result in damage that may only become evident later with a comprehensive eye exam. For this reason, always get your eye checked out by an eye-care professional. The urgency of this can depend on your immediate symptoms. For example, loss of all or any part of your vision, bleeding around the eye socket, the eyeball appearing sunken within the socket, flashing lights or floating specks in your vision, double vision or feeling like your eye movements are restricted, should all go straight to emergency. Otherwise, if it seems like the worst of it is just a black eye and a bruised ego from missing that catch of the ball, gently apply a clean cold compress to manage swelling and pain, and then see your local eye-care professional within the next day or so.
What Should I Do If… I Experience Sharp Trauma
A sharp trauma to the eye that cuts or punctures the eyeball is always an emergency. Penetrating trauma can come from broken glass due to a car accident or smashed glassware, flying shrapnel from explosives or ballistics, or even intentional injury during a physical altercation.
If you experience a penetrating eye injury, do not try to remove any objects that have become lodged in the eye. Instead, place a protective shield over the eye socket, one that doesn’t touch the eye or apply any pressure to the eyeball itself. First aiders will often use a paper or plastic cup and tape it upside down over the eye socket. You can cut off the excess length of the cup so that it’s just deep enough to cover over your eye without touching it.
It’s important not to apply any pressure whatsoever to the injured eye or introduce any other substances to the eye, such as trying to wash it with water or eye drops. Avoid taking any painkillers including aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs, which may exacerbate bleeding. Once first aid has been administered, take yourself straight to emergency.
What Should I Do If… I Splash Chemicals into My Eye
As soon as you’ve splashed any chemical into your eye that shouldn’t be there, stick your head under the faucet or hose and get that water running. You want to flush your eye with continuously running water for at least 15 minutes.
Don’t rub your eye or try to bandage or tape over it. Also note that using lubricating eye drops to rinse out your eye is not adequate – you will need to use running water for at least 15 minutes to have the best chance of minimizing the effects of a chemical burn as both alkaline and acidic chemicals can wreak havoc on the structures of the eye. Also, very importantly, never try to MacGyver your way out and attempt to neutralize an acid burn to the eye with an alkaline substance or vice versa. That’s just asking for trouble.
After rinsing your eye for those 15 minutes, you may either take yourself to the emergency department or your local eye-care professional for further evaluation.
Eye injuries are no fun in any shape or form, and some are more serious than others. If ever you’re not sure how to react to an eye injury when it happens, that’s what 911 is for – seek professional medical help immediately.
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