According to the organization Prevent Blindness, approximately 2.4 million eye injuries happen in the United States each year. With so many injuries, it’s important for people to know how to respond to accidents.
The right way to treat an eye injury often depends on the type of damage that was caused:
Treating a Chemical Exposure
Chemical exposures can cause eye irritation, which makes people want to rub their eyes. Avoid that temptation! Rubbing eyes that have been exposed to chemicals can actually cause more damage.
Instead of rubbing the eye, flush it with water for 15 to 20 minutes. Time is of the essence, so use the nearest source of water, whether that means holding your head under a faucet or using an emergency eyewash station.
Irrigating the eye for 20 minutes can help dilute the chemical and normalize the pH of the tear film. Acids such as cleaning chemicals or bases such as drain cleaner can cause severe damage that only worsens with prolonged contact.
Treating Foreign Particles in the Eye
“Foreign particle” can refer to any small object that should not be in your eye. This includes sand, metal shavings, dirt, etc.
Like a chemical exposure, you should resist the temptation to rub your eyes. Rubbing your eye could cause damage or push the foreign particle into a hard-to-reach area. Instead, pull the eye’s upper lid down and blink rapidly. Blinking may help dislodge a foreign particle, but irrigation may be necessary. If a particle is embedded under the eyelid, an abrasion may quickly develop due to the particle being raked across the eye with every blink. While strong magnets may help to remove ferrous metal fragments, they do not remove rust. Rust will quickly develop within 12-24 hours and delay healing and cause scarring. The good news is, rust can be easily removed by your eye care provider under a topical anesthetic.
Treating a Blow to the Eye
Getting hit in the eye, either by another person or an object, can cause a lot of pain. A cold compress can help reduce swelling, but avoid putting pressure on the eye. You can also take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
In most cases, swelling, redness, and discomfort will fade over the next few days. Blunt-force trauma to the eye can cause several problems such as iritis (inflammation), glaucoma, and retinal detachments. Always have your eye examined after trauma to rule-out sight threatening problems that may take days or weeks to develop.
A penetrating eye injury is a more urgent problem. If you think that the globe has been punctured or penetrated, avoid putting pressure on the eye. Instead, use a small paper taped to the forehead and cheek to shield the eye until it can be examined.
Taking care of your eyes is an integral part of staying healthy. Remember that our doctors are on-call 24/7 for established patients in the event of an eye emergency. For all your eye care needs, visit us at Advanced Eye Care in Amarillo.