Common eye emergencies and how to treat them

eye emergenciesHave you ever gotten a sliver of metal stuck in your eye? Or maybe you’ve experienced flashes of light in your vision? Many people take their vision for granted until something bad happens to their eyes. Here are some common eye emergencies that bring people to Hampton Roads Eye Associates for emergency care.

Foreign objects in the eye
This could be a metal sliver, an eyelash, or a grain of sand. Whatever it is, it doesn’t belong, and it could be scratching up the cornea. Usually, this is a minor emergency, and it can often be taken care of at home by having someone wash her hands, and then examine the eye carefully by pulling the lower eyelid down and then flipping up the upper lid. Once the foreign object is located, try flushing it out with water.
However, seek professional help if the foreign object

  • has sharp edges,
  • is embedded in the eye,
  • contains chemicals,
  • or was propelled into the eye at high speed.

In a serious case, restrict eye movement by covering the good eye. Also, if the eye is bleeding, use a clean cloth to bandage it. If the bandage presses too tightly against the foreign object, then cover the eye with a paper cup.

Chemical Eye Burns
When the eye or eyelid becomes exposed to chemicals, please take it seriously. Depending on which chemical burned the eye, and how long the exposure lasted, a chemical eye burn could produce lasting damage. There are three types of burns.

  1. Alkali burns from substances such as ammonia and lime can damage both the cornea and the inner eye structure.
  2. Acid burns come from substances like sulfuric acid in an automobile battery or acetic acid in nail polish remover.
  3. Irritants, like pepper spray, cause discomfort but usually not much actual damage to the eye. 

Begin washing the eye out as soon as possible after the chemical burn occurs. Keep washing for at least 10 minutes. Then, seek immediate professional care.

Acute Glaucoma
Acute glaucoma is a sudden increase in pressure in the eye caused by fluids that can’t drain. The pressure could quickly damage the optic nerve, and it could lead to loss of vision. An attack of acute glaucoma is often caused by your eyes dilating too much or too quickly. The symptoms are sudden and can’t be ignored. They include

  • eye pain
  • severe headache
  • nausea
  • blurry vision
  • seeing halos around lights
  • different sized pupils
  • loss of vision

The doctor may use eye drops and/or medication to treat this condition. He also may use a laser to get the fluid flowing again. Only a professional can confirm the onset of acute glaucoma. Contact us immediately if these symptoms occur.

Retinal Detachment
It is an emergency when the retina pulls away from its normal place at the back of the eye. Symptoms of retinal detachment are painless. They include

  • the sudden appearance of many dots and small objects in your vision
  • flashes of light in your eyes
  • a shadow falling over your field of vision
  • your peripheral vision gradually falling away

Seek medical help right away if you believe you are experiencing these symptoms. Treatment for a detachment is usually surgery.

Take eye injuries seriously. Many eye emergencies, when left untreated, can lead to permanent eye damage.
Contact Hampton Roads Eye Associates in Oyster Point for an appointment at (757) 643-8800 if you suffer from any of the listed symptoms. Our board certified providers are available to treat your eye emergency efficiently and quickly.