What is Considered an Ocular Emergency?

What is Considered an Ocular Emergency?

What is Considered an Ocular Emergency?

What is Considered an Ocular Emergency?

Eye doctors see dozens of eye problems daily in their offices, but few are true ocular emergencies. An eye emergency requires immediate medical attention due to a sudden change in vision or ocular health. 

Definition of Ocular Emergencies


Eye emergencies include scratches, cuts, burns, objects in the eye, blunt injuries, and chemical exposure to the eye or eyelid. Certain medical conditions and infections may also require immediate medical care. Since the eye is a delicate organ, any of these conditions can cause vision loss if left unaddressed. 

What Do Healthcare Providers Consider an Eye Emergency?


An ocular emergency is an obvious eye trauma or sudden onset of symptoms that affect your vision. That can range from vision loss or severe eye pain to chemical exposure. Contact your eye doctor or rush to the nearest emergency room if you experience any of the following:

  • Eye pain

  • Vision loss

  • Bleeding in the eye

  • Double vision

  • Blood in the white of the eye

  • A new or sudden increase in floaters or flashes

  • Bulging or swollen eye

  • Differently sized pupils

  • Eye discharge

  • Bruising around the eye

  • Severe eye trauma

  • Suspected eye infection

  • Foreign object in the eye

  • A split contact lens in the eye

  • Cut or scratched eye or eyelid

  • Severe stinging, burning, or itching eyes

If you are unsure whether your condition is an emergency, contact your eye doctor and let him/her know what is happening.

First Aid for Ocular Emergencies


Knowing how to respond to an eye emergency saves you valuable time and vision. Here are some instructions for basic first aid for an eye emergency.

Be Prepared


Always wear eye protection if you engage in hazardous activities or sports that could lead to an eye injury. Also, it would be best to stock your first aid kit with commercial eyewash and a rigid eye shield before engaging in hazardous activities. Most importantly, do not assume that your eye injury is harmless. See your eye doctor immediately when in doubt. 

Chemical Burns


Promptly flush the affected eye with clean water while keeping it open as wide as possible during the flushing. Continue pouring water into the eye for at least 15 minutes. Do not bandage the eye. Instead, seek medical treatment immediately after flushing.

Objects on the Eye


Try letting your tears flush the object out or use a commercial eyewash. Do not use tweezers or any other tool to try and remove the object. Instead, see your eye doctor immediately. 

Blow to the Eye


Apply a cold compress to the injured eye without pressure and seek emergency care in case of the following:

  • Blurry vision

  • Pain

  • One eye sticking out more than the other

  • Eye discoloration

  • Blood inside the eye


Punctures and Cuts to the Eye or Eyelid


Do not wash out the injured eye with any liquid or try to remove an object stuck in the eye. Cover the wounded eye with a rigid shield without pressure. Secure the shield to the cheekbone below the eye and the brow above. You should then seek medical care immediately.

It is crucial to determine when it is safe to ignore a problem and when the situation warrants prompt treatment. That is especially so when it comes to essential organs like the eyes. Your steps may mean the difference between permanent visual impairment and continued vision.

For more about eye emergencies, visit Eye Focus Northwest at our office in Salem or Tigard, Oregon. Call (971) 808-2640 or (971) 202-1932 to book an appointment today.

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