Treating Traumatic Eye Injuries

You never know when you may be in an accident that involves your eyes. Even a minor situation like splashing cleaning solution on an eye can cause major irritation and loss of sight. Learn how to respond to an injury to your eyes while you make your way to see an optometrist or emergency personnel. Quick action could prevent permanent loss of all or part of your sight.

1. Getting Something Small In Your Eye

The tiniest dust particle can cause irritation if it's stuck between your eyelid and eyeball. It's important to remove any foreign object without scratching your eye.

  • Blink rapidly to wash the object out of your eye.
  • Run cool water over your eye or flush it with eye drops.
  • Gently pull the lower eyelid down and look for the object.
  • Gently pull the upper eyelid up over a cotton swab and look for the object.
  • If you can't see the object or it doesn't respond to being flushed out, cover your eye with a clean cloth or piece of gauze and see your doctor.

2. Larger Objects In The Eye

If an object accidentally pierces your eye, such as a piece of glass or metal, this is an emergency and the right actions are necessary to prevent more serious damage.

  • Do not attempt to remove the object from the eye.
  • Gently cover your eye with a clean piece of cloth or gauze.
  • If the object extends out from your eye, hold onto it gently so it doesn't move and damage more of the eye tissue.
  • Call the emergency services or have someone take you to an emergency room. Do not try to drive yourself there.

3. Cuts And Abrasions

If a large object, such as a jagged piece of glass or metal, has cut or scraped your eye, this is another reason to seek help quickly. In the meantime, follow these steps:

  • Hold a clean cloth or piece of gauze over the eye. A cool, damp cloth may help it feel better.
  • Keep your eye closed, if possible.
  • Don't push or rub your eye, even if it appears to be bleeding or leaking fluid.
  • Call for help and get to an emergency room quickly.

4. Blunt Trauma To Your Eye

If you suddenly get hit in the eye, you'll develop a bruise around the eye (a "black eye"), and your eye and the skin around it will be swollen and painful. If the blow was not strong enough to break the skin, you will likely have a discolored eye for a few days until it goes away. If you have any of these other symptoms, get to a doctor because something serious may be going on:

  • The skin around the eye is broken and bleeding
  • The bone around the eye is painful to touch
  • The eye is swollen shut

These can be signs of a broken bone around the eye. Place a cool, damp cloth against your eye and have it looked at quickly.

5. Splashing Something In Your Eye

There are many dangerous chemicals around your house, and possibly your workplace, that can damage your eye if it comes into contact with them. Regardless of the material, you need to flush your eye out quickly and get to an emergency center.

  • Hold your head to one side with your eye under a faucet to flush it out. (Place your face in the shower to flush your eye if this is more comfortable.)
  • Flush your eye with cool water for several minutes.
  • After flushing your eye, do not rub it. Cover it with a clean cloth or piece of gauze.
  • See a doctor immediately.