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What to do?: Eye Injury

For minor scratches, an eye doctor may simply advise monitoring, making sure no infections occur.

Dealing with Common Eye Injuries

Some eye injuries, such as an accidental puncture,can lead to vision loss unless treated urgently and sometimes may require surgery.

Avoid eye injuries by wearing safety goggles or glasses. In case of an accidental eye injury, knowing what to do can mean the difference between saving someone’s vision or going blind.

Corneal Abrasion

Commonly known as scratched eye, this uncomfortable condition can make one highly sensitive to light. A poke in the eye, a fingernail scratch or a graze when the eye is rubbed with dirt, dust or sand can typically lead to a scratched eye.

An immediate visit to an eye doctor for proper treatment is essential to avoid bacterial or other infection. A small scratch can allow bacteria to penetrate the eye in a period as short as 24 hours and severe infection could lead to blindness if you are unlucky.

In case of a scratched eye, avoid infection by not rubbing the eye or applying tight patches, making it conducive to bacterial growth. Instead, keep the eye closed or place a loose cover over it and then immediately see an eye doctor.

Foreign Objects

Get urgent treatment should a foreign object, especially a sharp piece of metal, penetrate the eye. Never attempt to remove the object or rub the eye as this may result in further injury. The foreign object may simply be embedded in the cornea (eye surface), not the interior, and rubbing may push the object deeper. The commonest cause of metal eye injury in Ireland is from grinding metal while not wearing protective goggles. This needs to be attended to as soon as possible but usually does not result in visual difficulties unless in the injury is near the centre of the cornea.

Protect the eye with a loose cover then go to an eye doctor so the object may be removed right away. Metal objects can quickly rust and leave a scar if not attended to quickly.

Chemical Burn

Chemicals can get into the eye through accidental splash or spray or by rubbing the eye with fingers that are contaminated. It may burn or sting for a while but may have no lasting ill-effects, however, that depends entirely on the substance in question. Some may only cause minor irritations but others may cause severe damage and blindness.

Acid does not immediately wash out hence can cause significant redness and burning. Alkali or chemicals that are alkali-based (common house cleaning solutions, chalk dust, etc) may cause redness but not immediate pain.

When the eye comes in contact with chemicals:

-Place the head under a tap and let warm water run over the eye for 15 minutes.

-Call an emergency number to get recommendations on how to treat the eye injury. Make sure to communicate the type of substance that harmed the eye and if any first-aid has been applied to it.

-For serious chemical burn, immediately go to an emergency eye department after rinsing the eye with water. Never rub the affected eye, instead, place an ice pack or cold compress.


Treat a swollen eye or a black eye with an ice pack. The swelling and the bruising could simply be the result of being struck by a fast-moving object.Make sure no internal damage has occurred by seeing an eye doctor. Minor injuries leave no harmful effects but a high speed small object such a Squash ball can do severe damage. If you suffer a serious eye injury go straight to an eye casualty department.

Subconjunctival Hemorrahage

Subconjunctival hemorrhage or bleeding in the eye is not a serious condition. Blood vessels between the sclera (white portion of the eye) and the conjunctiva (the clear covering) break and leak blood. Typically people suffer from this following a bout of sneezing or coughing especially if aspirin has been taken.

A minor injury can also cause this and it is quite common. Typically painless, the affected area may be limited to a small part of the eye or cover entire sclera making it look red but will usually clear in five to ten days depending on the amount of blood that leaked. It is not known to cause temporary or permanent loss of vision.

Traumatic Iritis

An eye injury caused by a blow from objects like a ball can lead to traumatic iritis or the swelling of the iris, the colored area surrounding the pupil. Treatment is required to reduce the risk of permanent decreased vision. Always see an eye doctor following injury.

Hyphemas and Orbital Blowout Fractures

A serious blow by a Hurley or bat or a kick in the face could result in a serious medical emergency that requires urgent treatment. Hyphema is a bleeding between the cornea and the iris while orbital blowout fracture is a crack in the bones around the eye. These require specialist treatment.

Important Details to Remember

  • Keep a note of your local emergency eye department or eye doctor in case there is a need for immediate advice during emergency situations.
  • During extreme emergencies such as penetrating eye injury, don’t waste time calling. Get to the nearest hospital immediately.
  • If using contact lenses, discuss this with the doctor. The doctor may need to give advice whether to keep using them or not.
  • Only the doctor can tell if surgery is required or not, depending on the extent of the injury.
  • Never take the severity of an eye injury for granted. Always have the eye seen by a doctor to avoid complications and risks that could result in vision loss.

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