When we get hurt, it can sometimes be easy to brush it off. “It’ll be alright to wait until tomorrow,” or “I can handle it myself.” Unfortunately, many times we’re wrong. Immediate professional attention is required. When it comes to your eyes, it is especially important to know when it is fine to wait until tomorrow and when it is an emergency situation warranting a visit to your eye doctor immediately. The difference can be the difference between continued vision and permanent blindness. Below, we will discuss a few of the major eye injuries that require that you contact your eyecare professional immediately.
The eye is equipped to clear itself of small, minor objects of irritation, such as sand and eyelashes. This is accomplished by tearing and blinking until the offending object is cleared. However, the eye is not equipped to deal with larger and/or sharper objects such as shrapnel or glass. In the event that a larger and/or sharper object becomes embedded in the eye, and especially the eyeball itself, immediate medical attention should be sought. Both eyes should be covered by a clean cloth in order to reduce eye movement until you are able to receive medical assistance. Do not attempt to remove these objects on your own. Doing so could cause very severe damage, and make removal by an eyecare professional more complicated.
Another common emergency is a scratch or cut in the eye or the eyeball itself. The eye is filled and surrounded by sensitive fluids, and the tissues of the inner eye are also very sensitive. A scratch or cut that occurs directly on the eye or eyeball can do significant damage to the sensitive structures in and around your eye as well as to the inner eye tissue. This can cause severe visual damage or blindness. In the event of such a cut or scratch, gently apply cold compresses to reduce swelling and bleeding, but DO NOT apply pressure to control the bleeding. This could do further damage to the eye itself. Contact your eye doctor immediately.
Finally, we all work with cleaning products, fertilizers, paints, aerosols and other dangerous chemicals on a regular basis. If these chemicals get in your eyes, severe and sometimes permanent chemical burns can result. In the event of chemicals getting in your eyes, you should turn your head so that the injured eye is down and to he side, and hold your eyelid open and flush with cool tap water for 15 minutes. If you’re wearing contact lenses, you should try to take them out. Of course, immediate medical attention should be sought. If possible, continue to flush your eyes with cool water while waiting for emergency care to arrive.
Beyond these general categories, a person should also contact an eye care professional if he/she is experiencing extremely painful, red eyes, uncontrollable bleeding from the eye, or if eye pain is accompanied by headache or nausea. All of these can also be signs of eye conditions that require immediate attention from an eyecare professional.