Sudbury Regional Hospital
Espanola Regional Hospital
Eye Emergencies & Protocol
First Aid Care for Eye Injuries
Any kind of injury or trauma to the eyes should be taken seriously. Prompt medical attention for eye problems can save your vision and prevent further complications.
Chemicals common at home or in the workplace can easily get splashed into your eyes. It is important to wear safety glasses when handling toxic or abrasive chemicals and use caution with household cleaners in order to prevent injury.
First aid care for chemical burns includes:
- Remain calm and keep your eyes open until they can be flushed. Closing your eyes traps the chemical in and does further damage.
- Flush eyes generously with water for 15 to 20 minutes. Make sure you keep your eyes open during flushing.
- Get immediate medical care.
You can also call your local poison control center for instructions. Be prepared to give information about the name and type of chemical, if possible.
The eye often cleans itself of debris with tearing, so no treatment is needed until you are certain the eye cannot remove the object by itself.
First aid care for foreign objects in the eyes includes:
- Don’t rub your eyes.
- Lift the upper eyelid up and out over the lower lid, and then roll your eyes around.
- Flush your eyes generously with water, and keep your eyes open during flushing.
- Repeat the previous steps until the object is eliminated.
- Follow up with a doctor to make sure all debris is gone and the eyes have not been scratched or damaged. Your doctor may evaluate you for damage by using a special eye drop that fluoresces under a certain type of light; it will help reveal any cuts or scratches in the cornea.
If there is an object embedded in the eye, do NOT remove it, as this may cause further damage. Instead, cover the eye with an eye shield or gauze and seek prompt medical attention.
Blows to the Eye
Impact to the eye is another form of eye trauma. Minor blows can often be managed at home. Any eye injury should be monitored for signs of a serious injury or potential infection.
First aid care for a blow to the eyes includes:
- Gently place a cold compress over your eye in 5- to 10-minute intervals. Do not place ice directly on the skin. Instead, use a cloth in between the ice and skin.
- Call your doctor. They may want to examine the eye for potential damage. If the trauma was significant (for example, skull fracture or displaced bones), you will need to go to an emergency department for immediate evaluation.
- After 24 hours, switch to warm compresses. This will help lessen bruising.
Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- drainage from the affected eye
- vision changes
- persistent pain
- any visible abnormalities or bleeding in the sclera, which is the white part of the eye.
Cuts or puncture wounds on the eye or lid
You should seek immediate medical care if you suffer this type of injury. However, you need to follow some basic first aid steps to ensure proper safety and support.
Here are some first aid tips for treating cuts and puncture wounds:
- Do not wash the eye or lid.
- If there is an object embedded in your eye, do NOT remove it. Doing so can cause further damage.
- Cover the eye with an eye shield. If you don’t have one available, place the bottom half of a paper cup over your eye and tape over it gently to secure it to your face.
- Seek prompt medical attention.
What not to do if you have an eye injury
Serious complications can occur from an eye injury. You shouldn’t attempt to treat yourself. Although you may be tempted, be sure not to:
- rub or apply pressure to your eye
- try to remove foreign objects that are stuck in any part of your eye
- use tweezers or any other tools in your eye (cotton swabs can be used, but only on the eyelid)
- put medications or ointments in your eye
If you wear contact lenses, don’t take them out if you think you’ve suffered an eye injury. Attempting to remove your contacts can make your injury worse.
The only exceptions to this rule are in situations where you have a chemical injury and your lenses didn’t flush out with water, or where you cannot receive immediate medical help.
The best thing you can do in an eye emergency is to get to your doctor as soon as possible.
Symptoms of eye injury
Eye emergencies cover a range of incidents and conditions, each with their own distinct symptoms.
You should contact your doctor if it feels like you have something in your eye, or if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- loss of vision
- burning or stinging
- pupils that are not the same size
- one eye is not moving like the other
- one eye is sticking out or bulging
- eye pain
- decreased vision
- double vision
- redness and irritation
- light sensitivity
- bruising around the eye
- bleeding from the eye
- blood in the white part of the eye
- discharge from the eye
- severe itching
- new or severe headaches
If there’s an injury to your eye, or if you have sudden vision loss, swelling, bleeding, or pain in your eye, visit an emergency room or urgent care center.
Preventing an Eye Injury
Eye injuries can happen anywhere, including at home, work, athletic events, or on the playground. Accidents can happen during high-risk activities, but also in places where you least expect them.
There are things you can do to decrease your risk of eye injuries, including:
- Wear protective eyewear when you use power tools or engage in high-risk sporting events. You’re at an increased risk any time you’re around flying objects, even if you’re not participating.
- Follow the directions carefully when working with chemicals or cleaning supplies.
- Keep scissors, knives, and other sharp instruments away from young children. Teach older children how to use them safely and supervise them when they do.
- Don’t let your children play with projectile toys, such as darts or pellet guns.
- Childproof your home by either removing or cushioning items with sharp edges.
- Use caution when cooking with grease and oil.
- Keep heated hair appliances, like curling irons and straightening tools, away from your eyes.
- Keep your distance from amateur fireworks.
To decrease your chances of developing permanent eye damage, you should always see an eye doctor after you experience an eye injury.
Small Foreign Objects in the Eye
Chemical Injuries to the Eye
Sustaining a black eye
You usually get a black eye when something hits your eye or the area surrounding it. Bleeding under the skin causes the discoloration associated with a black eye.
Typically, a black eye will appear as black and blue and then turn purple, green, and yellow over the next few days. Your eye should return to normal coloring within a week or two. Black eyes are sometimes accompanied by swelling.
A blow to the eye can potentially damage the inside of the eye so it’s a good idea to see your eye doctor if you have a black eye.
A black eye can also be caused by a skull fracture. If your black eye is accompanied by other symptoms, you should seek medical care.
Large foreign objects stuck in your eye
Glass, metal, or objects that enter your eye at high speed can cause serious damage. If something is stuck in your eye, leave it where it is.
Do not touch it, do not apply pressure, and do not attempt to remove it.
This is a medical emergency and you should seek help immediately. Try to move your eye as little as possible while you wait for medical care. If the object is small and you’re with another person, it may help to cover both eyes with a clean piece of cloth. This will reduce your eye movement until your doctor examines you.