Management of Ocular Trauma
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people experience some form of ocular trauma or eye injury. In many cases, patients with eye injuries end up in the emergency room. Some of these patients will end up having lifelong vision issues. If not handled properly, a traumatic eye injury can lead to vision loss or blindness.
According to Prevent Blindness, a national organization dedicated to educating the public about eye health and safety, about 90% of traumatic eye injuries are largely preventable by utilizing proper safety equipment. However, in instances when an eye injury has already been sustained, it’s important that people know what to do immediately. This gives the injured person the best chance of saving their vision.
Common Types of Ocular Trauma
Traumatic eye injuries can happen in both the workplace and at home. The most common causes of ocular trauma are blunt force impact, cuts/scratches on the eye, chemical burns, and penetration.
Blunt Force Impact
Blunt force impact on the eye occurs when an object hits the eye(s) hard. This commonly happens during sports, such as baseball, basketball, or boxing. It can also be caused in the workplace by flying pieces of material, or during recreational activities such as DIY home repair. Blunt force impact can injure the eye, as well as the bones and muscles that surround the eye.
Cuts and Scratches on the Eye
Cuts and scratches on the eye, specifically the cornea, are often caused by fingers or other foreign objects getting into the eye. Cuts and scratches on the eye can also be caused by very small objects such as metal shavings or grains of sand. Although these usually heal on their own, they can sometimes cause vision problems afterward, depending on how deep the injury is.
Most people have experienced eye contact with minor chemicals such as shampoo, which typically only causes a minor burning sensation that goes away once the eye is rinsed. However, some chemicals pose a much greater risk of eye injury, including industrial chemicals, swimming pool chemicals, fertilizers, and some cleaners. These chemicals can cause significant damage to your eye if you come into contact with them. In some cases, the vapors of the chemicals can also cause irritation.
Eye penetration occurs when an object punctures the eye in some way. Depending on the circumstances, the object may become stuck in the eye. It’s very important that patients not try to remove an object that has penetrated their eye and instead seek out emergency medical care immediately.
Symptoms of Ocular Trauma
While some forms of ocular trauma, such as eye penetration, are very obvious, some injuries cause symptoms that aren’t as immediately alarming. For example, if someone has a torn eyelid, they’re highly likely to go to the emergency room immediately, whereas if someone is simply experiencing pain after an eye injury, they might not be as worried.
Even if an eye injury doesn’t seem significant, there are certain signs and symptoms that you should be aware of. These include:
- Pain in the eye that doesn’t go away
- Blurry vision
- Excessive tearing
- Vision problems
- A sudden profusion of eye flashes and floaters
Potential Complications Caused by Ocular Trauma
Another reason to see a doctor immediately after sustaining an eye injury is that ocular trauma can sometimes lead to other complications. One example of this is retinal tears and detachment, which can sometimes be caused by blunt force trauma to the eye. Another example is endophthalmitis, which is the inflammation of the vitreous and aqueous humors, as well as the internal tissues of the ocular cavities. Both of these conditions can have extraordinarily damaging effects on vision if not treated immediately, potentially resulting in permanent blindness.
How to Handle Traumatic Eye Injuries
If you or someone near you has experienced a traumatic eye injury, acting quickly will give you the best chance of protecting your vision. The most important thing you can do is to get yourself or the injured person to seek emergency medical care right away. Before that happens, practicing good first aid can help immensely. This depends both on knowing what to do as well as what not to do.
Dos and Don’ts for Blunt Force Trauma to the Eye
- DO use a cold compress and apply it gently to the eye; this will help to reduce pain and swelling
- DON’T use food items as a cold compress, as this can cause a bacterial infection
Dos and Don’ts for Cuts and Scratches on the Eye
- DON’T rub your eye, as this can cause more scratches or exacerbate existing ones
- DO blink your eyes so that they produce more tears; this can help to naturally flush out any particles that are irritating or scratching the eye
- DO use eyewash or running tap water to flush out the eye
Dos and Don’ts for Chemical Burns on the Eyes
- DO flush the eye out immediately with clean water
- DON’T rub your eyes
- If possible, DO gather information about the chemical that caused the injury
Dos and Don’ts for Eye Penetration Injuries
- DON’T try to remove an object that is stuck in the eye
- DON’T rub the eye
- DON’T take any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.)
- DON’T attempt to rinse the eye with water or anything else
- DO place a shield over the eye
Get Advanced Care for Ocular Trauma and Complications in the Midwest
If you have sustained a traumatic eye injury recently or are possibly experiencing complications caused by one, Retina Consultants of Minnesota can help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.