Eyes are sensitive organs, and in the event of an emergency, it is always better to be safe than sorry. In most cases of vision loss, once it has occurred it cannot be reversed. This means that prevention and preservation are priority.
A complete evaluation of your eye is essential after any type of eye injury. Anyone who sustains a serious injury to the eye, including blunt injuries, should be seen as soon as possible.
If you feel you have an eye emergency, please telephone so we can schedule you appropriately or advise you on what steps to take. If one of our doctors is not immediately available to assist or direct you, report to the nearest emergency room.
How to Handle an Eye Emergency
Note that the information on this website is not a replacement for speaking with an Optometrist or doctor. Please use the information provided as a guide.
If you get an acidic or caustic chemical in your eye (e.g., chemical burn), please stop reading this and irrigate your eye with clean contact lens solution; if none is available, you may use cool, clean tap water. Do this for 15 minutes, and then call us or go directly to the nearest emergency room.
If you mechanically injure your eye, or if something gets in your eye, do not push on your eye.
Cover your eye with a rigid shield. However, do not put anything under the shield that would press on your eye. A rigid shield can be fashioned from the bottom of a paper cup. Alternatively, put your glasses or sunglasses on, which will also provide protection.
For less urgent injuries, call our office to be scheduled to see a doctor.
The sudden onset of many floating spots and flashing lights, in association with the feeling that part of your vision is covered by a black curtain or shade, may represent a retinal tear or detachment. Examination is essential as soon as these symptoms appear.
Anyone who has the onset of new floaters with or without flashing lights should be seen for a dilated fundus exam as soon as possible.
Viral conjunctivitis is a very common infection of the outer layer of the eye – called the conjunctiva – usually caused by the common cold virus. Treatment is largely supportive, consisting of cool compresses and artificial tears. Often we give an antibiotic ointment to soothe the eye and protect it from bacterial infection, but this does not treat the viral process (which resolves on its own).
Patients with viral conjunctivitis are contagious for approximately seven days after the onset of symptoms. Patients should be very careful to avoid touching their eyes- frequent hand washing is advised. The symptoms of viral conjunctivitis can last up to three weeks and may fluctuate before finally resolving.
Viral conjunctivitis is very common, especially in the winter months. Nonetheless, not all cases of red eye are viral conjunctivitis, and anyone who has a red eye that does not seem to be improving should be seen to rule out other causes.
The following symptoms require immediate consultation:
Almost all eye emergencies can be avoided with proper eye protection. Investing in protective equipment, such as safety goggles, dramatically reduces the risk of emergencies and accidents.
To reduce your risk of injury, wear certified protective eyewear whenever you play ball sports or hockey. Certified lenses display approval stickers from either the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Regular glasses, sunglasses, open-sided eye guards, and contact lenses do not provide adequate protection.
Adequate eye protection is especially important for people with low vision or a blind eye, as they may be at greater risk of going completely blind after suffering an eye injury.