Our eyes are an amazingly vital component of our everyday life. They help us navigate our surroundings, “read” the emotions of the people around us and tackle everyday common tasks. Even dry, itchy eyes during allergy season can seem unbearable to some and interfere in going about our daily activities. But what if you are facing something more serious than allergies, and you think you may have en eye emergency. What should you do? What constitutes an eye emergency and what steps should you take to remedy the situation?
What is an eye emergency?
Eye emergencies could include cuts, scratches, objects in the eye, burns, chemical exposure, and blunt injuries to the eye or eyelid. Certain eye infections and other medical conditions, such as blood clots or glaucoma, may also need prompt medical care. If you notice any of the following symptoms then you may be having an eye emergency:
- Sudden vision loss
- Pain in or around the eye
- Redness accompanied by pain in the eye
- Halos (colored circles around lights)
- New floaters (spots, strings, cobwebs, or shadows before the eyes)
- Bulging of the eye or swelling of eye tissues
- Flashes or streaks of light
- Double vision
- Sudden crossed, turned or “wandering” eye
- Discharge, crusting or excessive tearing
- Eyelids stuck together, especially upon awakening
- Sudden blurring of vision that persists
What should I do?
Since the eye is easily damaged, any of these conditions can lead to vision loss if untreated. It is important to get medical attention for eye or eyelid injuries and problems. In most cases, if you have continuing symptoms of pain, visual disturbance, or bleeding, you should go to an ophthalmologist or optometrist. In general, if you are not sure if you have a serious eye injury, call your ophthalmologist for advice.
- If you believe your eye has been exposed to chemicals, your doctor may want you to use an eye wash before heading to the hospital or eye doctor’s office.
- Foreign bodies that are not removed with gentle washing should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist.
- If an object has impaled your eye or the area around the eye, do not remove it. Doing so may cause more damage. Call 911 immediately.
While seeking medical help head these warnings:
- Do not press or rub an injured eye.
- Do not remove contact lenses unless rapid swelling is occurring, there is a chemical injury and the contacts did not come out with the water flush, or you cannot get prompt medical help.
- Do not attempt to remove a foreign body or any object that appears to be embedded (stuck) in any part of the eye. Get medical help right away.
- Do not use cotton swabs, tweezers, or anything else on the eye itself. Cotton swabs should only be used on the eyelid.