Eye Injuries: What Is Considered an Eye Emergency?


Jun 28, 2019


There are many different types of eye trauma, and they can all vary in severity. Sometimes it’s just a minor issue that will go away with an ice pack or flushing the eye with water, while other problems require immediate medical attention.

In a country where so many people can’t afford to receive healthcare, it’s tempting to “tough it out” and see if the pain and discomfort will go away on its own. However, failing to receive medical treatment when you need it can lead to chronic conditions, complications, or sometimes even blindness. Therefore, it’s crucial to learn to recognize when your injury is serious and get the care you need.

Signs and Symptoms of Injuries for Eye Emergencies

There are several different causes for eye emergencies. These include trauma, foreign objects, burns, or chemicals.

Symptoms will vary depending on the type of injury you’re suffering from. Seek emergency care if you’re experiencing any of the following:

  • Eye pain
  • Burning sensation
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blood in the white of your eye
  • There’s a foreign item in your eye
  • Eye swelling
  • Cuts on the eyelid
  • Bruising around the eye
  • Unusual size or shape of the pupil
  • The injured eye is sticking out
  • Double vision
  • Pain around the eye
  • Severe itching
  • Irritation
  • Headache

If any of these apply to you, do not rub your eyes, and do not attempt to remove any object stuck in your eye on your own. If you’re wearing contact lenses, do not remove them. Wait to receive emergency care, and let your medical provider remove them for you.

If you have a chemical in your eye, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, hold your eyelid open and flush the affected eye with cold water for 10 to 15 minutes, then go to an emergency room.

Common Non-Emergency Eye Problems

1. Eye Scratch

This can happen by playing with a small child or pet, or working in minor home improvement projects. Fortunately, your eyes are efficient at tearing up to take care of it naturally. Avoid rubbing your eye and blink as much as possible. Wear sunglasses to avoid light sensitivity and avoid using over-the-counter eyedrops, as they may exacerbate the pain. Schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist, who will prescribe medication if necessary and let you know of activities you should avoid while you heal.

2. Small Foreign Object in the Eye

This can be an eyelash, pet hair, or dust. Blink rapidly several times to see if it clears on its own. You can also use eyedrops to try to flush it out. Do not rub your eye to avoid irritation. If after several tries, the item is still stuck in your eye, see a doctor.

3. Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

This is commonly known as Pink Eye. Your eyes have a clear layer which covers the surface, called the conjunctiva. An allergic reaction, wearing dirty contact lenses, or getting a small foreign object stuck in your eye can cause it to become inflamed, resulting in conjunctivitis. Symptoms include redness, slight itchiness, tearing, and crusting while sleeping. The good news is that it usually clears up on its own.

4. Swollen Eyelids

Swollen eyelids can occur as a result of an allergic reaction or an infection. Fluid accumulates on the eyelid, and you end up with irritated eyes, teary-eyed, and experience slight pain. Common culprits include allergic reactions to pollen, dust, pet dander, contact lens solution, or makeup. They can also happen when you wear dirty contact lenses. Antihistamines, eyedrops, and a cold compress will help alleviate symptoms and promote healing. Also, try to narrow down what may have caused it so you can prevent reoccurrence.

5. Eyelid Bumps

Small bumps on your eyelids can be a result of fat deposits, chalazia (caused by blocked glands), or milia (small white bumps). These are typically harmless, painless, and go away on their own.

24-Hour Emergency Room Services in Colorado Springs and Texas

If you’re not feeling well, we can provide the care you need. If you have questions or need immediate treatment, your nearest Complete Care location is ready to help, no matter the time of day or night. We offer a variety of services to help you and your family in your time of need. No appointments are necessary.

Find the Complete Care location nearest you.