Our sense of vision is critical to all of us. Fortunately, injuries to the eyes are uncommon.  But since they can threaten our vision, they can represent serious injuries.  Therefore, it is always a good idea to see a doctor for any eye injury.

What are common eye problems?

  • Eye irritation: Although not technically an injury, many things that contact our eyes can lead to irritation that may include itching, mild pain, redness, or swelling.  Common causes include small foreign objects, seasonal allergies, infections such as conjunctivitis (pink eye), dry eyes, or irritants such as chlorine.
  • Broken blood vessel: A subconjunctival hemorrhage occurs when one of the many blood vessels in your eyes breaks causing the white of your eye to be red. Although this may be alarming, a broken blood vessel usually isn’t a sign of anything harmful. They are usually caused by straining too hard while coughing or sneezing, or by forceful rubbing.  They are much more common in people who are on blood thinners or aspirin but can also be common in those who wear contact lenses.
  • Black eye: Black eyes are bruises on and around the eye that are caused by some kind of trauma to the tissues around your eye or your forehead. You may experience pain, discoloration of the affected area, and swelling. Unless there is also trauma to the eyeball itself or swelling that prevents the eyelid from opening fully, there should be no change in vision from a black eye.  Black eyes usually heal on their own without medical intervention.
  • Foreign object: A foreign object, such as an eyelash, may find its way into your eye and cause pain and irritation. In most cases, the object will naturally be flushed out by increased tear production, but more stubborn objects may require eye drops or even more aggressive irrigation. If the foreign object doesn’t naturally flush out on its own, you should seek medical attention.
  • Orbital fracture: An orbital fracture is a broken bone around your eyes. Symptoms may include bruising, changes in vision, pain, and swelling. They result from blunt force to the eyeball such as being punched in the face.  Other causes may include car accidents, sports injuries, or falling down and hitting your eye.  Any forceful blow to the eye socket or eyeball itself should be evaluated by a doctor, especially if there is any change in vision.
  • Retinal Detachment: Retinal detachments occur when the retina pulls away from its normal position at the back of the eye. This may cause floaters in your field of vision, flashes of light, especially in the peripheral vision, or a dark shadow across part of the vision of one eye. These usually occur spontaneously and almost exclusively in older people but can also be the result of a traumatic injury.  These can cause serious visual impairment so any suspicion you are experiencing a detachment should lead to immediate evaluation at an emergency room.
  • Open Globe Injuries:  The eyeball is technically referred to as the globe.  Some injuries can cause puncture or laceration of the globe, opening it to the outside world.  These happen when a sharp object has entered the eye, such as a stick or a Signs of an open globe include a misshapen pupil, fluid leaking from the eyeball, or an eyeball that has lost its normal shape. These are very serious injuries and require immediate 

How to treat eye injuries?

At-home treatments

Some eye injuries can be treated at home without the intervention of a doctor. These injuries include eye irritation, broken blood vessels, black eyes, and foreign objects in the eye. While these injuries can go away on their own, there are a few strategies to speed up the healing process:

  • Eye irritation: The treatment for eye irritation depends on the cause. Seasonal allergies that cause eye irritation and itching can be treated with over-the-counter allergy medications such as Zyrtec, Allegra, or Benadryl.  Several types of eye drops also include medication to treat allergies, such as Naphcon-A or Visine-A.  Most cases of pink eye will resolve on their own, but the discomfort can be treated with eye drops.  For irritants such as chlorine, avoiding the irritant is usually all that is needed.
  • Broken blood vessels: Although these can appear impressive, these are usually mild injuries that don’t require any additional treatment, so long as the blood that covers the white part of your eye doesn’t spread over your cornea or the clear part of your eye.
  • Black eye: The bruising that causes a black eye will resolve on its own but can take days.  You may apply an ice pack if it helps with the pain and discomfort.
  • Foreign object: Most foreign objects should flush out on their own as you blink and as tears flow across your eyes.  If not, you can try irrigating your eye with eye drops or tap water.

When to see a doctor

Some injuries to the eye require medical treatment and may not heal properly without it. Some injuries can lead to permanent loss of vision or other issues.  Therefore, if you have any of the following, seek medical attention:

  1. Any change in visual acuity or any double vision
  2. Severe pain, especially if it’s worse with moving your eyes around
  3. Any change in the shape of your pupil or abnormal size of your pupil
  4. Any symptoms that aren’t improving
  5. Any thick, pus-like drainage.