Eye injuries range from minor irritations to serious, potentially vision-threatening conditions that require immediate attention. That’s why it is important to have an ophthalmologist or other medical doctor examine the eye as soon as possible, even if the injury seems minor at first.

The following are some of the most common causes of eye injuries:

  • Punches
  • Hand, ball, or other sports equipment blows
  • Material fragments flying as a result of explosions or industrial work
  • Bullets, darts, fireworks, bungee cords, and BBs are examples of flying objects
  • Chemical spills

Common eye injury symptoms

If you notice any of these symptoms, seek prompt medical attention. These are symptoms of potentially serious eye injury:

  • Eye pain that persists
  • Having difficulty seeing
  • Cut or ripped eyelid
  • One eye moves more slowly than the other
  • One eye protrudes further from the eye socket than the other
  • The pupil of the eye is unusual in size or shape
  • The clear part of the eye has blood in it
  • A sensation as if something is in the person’s eye or under the eyelid that tears and blinking cannot remove

However, there are some first aid tips that can help manage the condition before seeking medical attention and enable you to maintain your eye health. Here are some first-aid tips to follow for various types of eye injuries:

Corneal abrasion

This is a superficial scratch on the clear, front surface of the eye. Symptoms include pain, blurry vision, redness, tearing, and light sensitivity. Seek medical attention right away if you have a corneal abrasion. If left untreated, the abrasion may become infected and develop into a corneal ulcer. Meanwhile, take the following immediate steps to manage a corneal abrasion:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and then rinse your eye with clean water to wash out the particles
  • Refrain from rubbing your eye as it can make the abrasion worse
  • Blink several times to remove any foreign particles that may be in the eye
  • If the foreign particle does not come out, try to pull the upper eyelid over the lower eyelid
  • Cover the eye with a clean and sterile eye pad or bandage and seek medical attention

Chemical exposure

This occurs when a hazardous chemical comes in contact with the eye. Symptoms include eye pain, redness, swelling, and vision loss. The most important way to limit the damage caused by chemical exposure is:

  • Immediately flush the eye with plenty of clean water for at least 15 minutes
  • Direct a gentle stream of water over your affected eye
  • If both eyes are affected, direct the stream to the bridge of your nose
  • Rinse your hands thoroughly to be sure no chemical or soap is left on them
  • Seek emergency medical attention immediately

Foreign object in the eye

This can be anything that enters the eye, from a particle of dust to a metal shard. Symptoms include a feeling of pressure or discomfort, irritation, pain, or extreme tearing. To manage a foreign object in the eye:

  • Wash your hand thoroughly
  • Examine the affected eye in a well-lit area
  • Look up while pulling the lower lid down to examine the eye and find the object. Then, look down while flipping up the inside of the upper lid
  • Do not rub the eye or put pressure on the eye as it can cause damage
  • Blink several times to see if the foreign object comes out
  • Put a flat container of water on the side of your face with the affected eye. Open and close the eye several times while submerged in water to flush out the object

Blunt force trauma

This occurs when a blunt object, such as a hammer, brick, bat, fist, or pipe hits the eye or the eye area. Symptoms include pain, swelling, bleeding, and vision loss. To manage blunt force trauma:

  • Do not rub the eye as even a light impact can cause severe injury to the eye
  • Gently apply a cold compress to the eye area to reduce swelling and pain
  • Seek medical attention immediately

Final thoughts

Remember, first aid is not a substitute for medical attention. The first-aid tips provided below are some immediate steps you can take following an eye injury; however, it is critical to seek medical attention from an eye doctor as soon as possible. An eye injury is easy to underestimate, especially if it affects a part of the eye that lacks pain receptors. By delaying medical treatment, you risk exacerbating the injury, which could result in permanent vision loss. Only an eye doctor can thoroughly examine your injured eye and recommend the best treatment.

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