Eye trauma is any damage to the eye or the orbital bone. Trauma can occur whether your eyes are open or closed, and while it’s one of the most common causes of vision loss, it's one of the least talked about.
At Retina Specialists, our team of expert ophthalmologists knows that eye trauma has both immediate and lasting effects, which is why they encourage their patients to seek treatment as soon as possible following injury. Early treatment can help limit the damage and preserve your vision. Here’s what you can expect following a traumatic experience.
Common causes of eye trauma
Trauma can occur from a range of disparate causes.
- Sports: injuries from flying balls, impacts during contact sports
- Accidents: trauma from sharp objects, blunt force (fist fights, car accidents, falls), shattered glass
- Cooking and cleaning: grease splatters, exposure to household cleaners
- Workplace hazards: burns from chemicals, lasers, and industrial solvents and cleaners
- Power tools: wood or metal fragments shot out at high speed
- Yard work: grass or dirt lodges under eyelid
- Strain: coughing, vomiting, or lifting a heavy object lead to hemorrhage
- Contact lenses: improper cleaning or leaving them in too long; corneal abrasions and ulcers
- Ultraviolet light: sun’s rays can burn eye tissue
The severity of the trauma depends on the force involved and how quickly you can get treatment.
Addressing eye trauma
Some trauma, such as a grain of sand in your eye, you can probably treat yourself. Other, more serious trauma, such as fractured orbital bones or embedded glass, requires expert medical help. Here are some guidelines.
Sand, dirt, dust, or other small natural particles in your eye usually aren’t an emergency, since our eyes can flush them out with tears and blinking. If you’re still having trouble getting out the speck, try some saline eye drops to increase the amount of moisture.
Metal, glass, or other man-made materials in your eye can be more serious because they become embedded in the eye’s surface, causing ongoing irritation and leading to more damage.
Never rub your eye. Instead, blink several times to allow tears to flush out the particle, but don’t use any saline drops, as you can make the situation worse. You can also try lifting the upper lid over the lashes of your lower lid so the lashes can try to brush the particle out.
If you can't get the particles out of your eye, come into Retina Specialists as soon as possible; we may need to surgically remove the object.
Blow to eye
Use a cold compress to reduce pain and swelling. Never use a steak or other food item, as they can introduce bacteria into the eye, and never apply pressure.
If you experience a black eye, pain, or visual disturbance even after a light blow, this may signal a significant eye injury, like a retinal detachment. Come into the office ASAP for treatment.
Cuts and punctures
Gently place a protective shield over the eye, but don’t place pressure on it, don’t rub the eye, don’t rinse with water or saline, and don’t try to remove any stuck objects. Once the shield is in place, call Retina Specialists to let us know you need an emergency appointment. If it’s after hours, go to the nearest ER.
Chemical splashes or burns
Immediately flush the eye with lots of clean water. Look for information on what the chemical is that got into your eye, and get emergency medical treatment to limit the damage.
Life after trauma
Eye trauma, even when it’s treated quickly, can lead to further complications. If you start to develop a cataract (a clouded lens) following the incident, your ophthalmologist may start by monitoring its development and your symptoms. Long-term, you may require cataract removal surgery, which involves taking out the clouded lens and replacing it with a clear one.
If you develop high intraocular pressure (IOP) following trauma, you’re at risk for glaucoma, a disease that destroys the optic nerve. Your ophthalmologist can start you on preventive treatments like corticosteroids and antibiotics.
If your high IOP eventually develops into glaucoma, your ophthalmologist may recommend either medication to lower eye fluid production or surgery to help the eye drain its fluid more efficiently.
If the trauma has damaged internal eye structures, like your retina, or if you’ve broken your orbital bones, surgery may be necessary to effect repair.
Accidents happen, and your eyes aren’t immune. If you experience any form of eye trauma, your best course of action is to come into Retina Specialists for an evaluation and proper treatment to preserve your eye health.
Call us at any of our five Texas offices — Dallas, DeSoto, Plano, Mesquite, and Waxahachie — or book online.