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How to Recognize the Signs of an Eye Emergency and What to Do


Eye emergencies can happen unexpectedly and may lead to serious complications if not addressed promptly. Recognizing the signs of an eye emergency and knowing how to respond can help prevent permanent damage to your vision. In this article, we will discuss common symptoms of eye emergencies, what actions to take, and when to seek professional help.


Common Signs of an Eye Emergency
Eye emergencies can present with a variety of symptoms. Here are some of the most common signs to watch for:


1. Sudden Vision Loss

  • Rapid and unexplained loss of vision in one or both eyes.

  • May occur suddenly or over a short period.


Possible Causes:

  • Retinal detachment

  • Stroke affecting the eye

  • Optic neuritis

  • Severe eye trauma


2. Severe Eye Pain

  • Intense and persistent pain in the eye or surrounding area.

  • Can be accompanied by other symptoms such as redness, swelling, or discharge.


Possible Causes:

  • Acute angle-closure glaucoma

  • Corneal abrasion or ulcer

  • Foreign object in the eye

  • Chemical burn


3. Eye Trauma

  • Any injury to the eye caused by blunt force, sharp objects, or chemical exposure.

  • May result in visible damage, bleeding, or changes in vision.


Possible Causes:

  • Sports injuries

  • Accidents

  • Chemical splashes

  • Foreign bodies


4. Sudden Onset of Floaters or Flashes

  • Seeing sudden, numerous floaters (tiny specks or strings) or flashes of light.

  • Can indicate a serious underlying issue.


Possible Causes:

  • Retinal detachment

  • Posterior vitreous detachment

  • Retinal tear


5. Persistent Redness and Swelling

  • Redness and swelling that do not improve with over-the-counter treatments.

  • May be accompanied by pain, discharge, or blurred vision.


Possible Causes:

  • Severe eye infection (e.g., endophthalmitis)

  • Orbital cellulitis

  • Scleritis or uveitis


6. Chemical Exposure

  • Contact with harmful chemicals leading to burning, redness, and pain.

  • Requires immediate action to prevent further damage.


Possible Causes:

  • Industrial accidents

  • Household cleaning agents

  • Chemical splashes in the eye



What to Do in an Eye Emergency
When an eye emergency occurs, taking the right steps can make a significant difference. Here are some general guidelines:


1. Seek Immediate Medical Attention
For any signs of an eye emergency, it is crucial to seek professional medical help immediately. Contact an eye care professional, visit the emergency room, or call emergency services if necessary.


2. Do Not Rub or Apply Pressure
Rubbing or applying pressure to the injured eye can worsen the condition. Keep the eye as still as possible and avoid touching it.


3. Flush the Eye (For Chemical Exposure)
If a chemical substance gets into your eye:

  • Rinse your eye with clean, lukewarm water immediately.

  • Continue flushing for at least 15 minutes.

  • Remove contact lenses if present.

  • Seek emergency medical care without delay.


4. Protect the Eye
If you have a foreign object in your eye or an eye injury:

  • Do not attempt to remove the object.

  • Cover the eye with a clean, loose bandage or cloth.

  • Avoid applying pressure.


5. Avoid Self-Medication
Using eye drops or medications without professional advice can be harmful. Wait for instructions from a healthcare provider.


6. Follow Up with an Eye Specialist
Even after receiving initial emergency care, follow up with an ophthalmologist or optometrist to ensure proper treatment and recovery.



Preventing Eye Emergencies
While not all eye emergencies can be prevented, taking precautions can reduce the risk:

  • Wear Protective Eyewear: Use safety glasses or goggles during activities that pose a risk of eye injury, such as sports, construction work, or handling chemicals.

  • Follow Safety Guidelines: Adhere to safety protocols when working with hazardous materials or equipment.

  • Maintain Regular Eye Exams: Routine eye check-ups can help detect potential issues early and keep your eyes healthy.



Recognizing the signs of an eye emergency and knowing how to respond can protect your vision and prevent long-term complications. If you experience any symptoms of an eye emergency, seek immediate medical attention and follow the appropriate steps to care for your eyes. For more information on eye health and safety, consult with your eye care provider.


Remember, when it comes to eye emergencies, quick and decisive action can save your vision. Stay informed and prepared to handle any situation that may arise.

For more information on eye health and to schedule an eye exam at Hillside Optometry in Granada Hills, call us at 818-474-2020, 

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