Eye trauma is any damage that occurs to the eye, its component parts, or the surrounding tissues, including the eye sockets. Because it can result even from a speck of dirt trapped under the eyelid, the trauma may occur whether your eyes are open or closed. Trauma is one of the leading causes of vision loss, but it’s one of the least discussed.
At Retina Specialists, with five locations in and around the Dallas, Texas, area, our team of board-certified ophthalmologists has the experience and expertise to diagnose and treat all types of eye trauma, and because there are both immediate and delayed effects from any traumatic event, they want their patients to know what steps they should immediately take to help preserve their vision.
Common causes of eye trauma and what you should do about them
There are many different causes of eye trauma; here are some of the most common:
Corneal abrasion (scratched eye)
Abrasions of the eye's surface may come from scratching the eye with your fingernail, getting poked in the eye, or rubbing the eye when a foreign body, such as a sand grain, is present. These scratches are painful and cause both eye redness and a severe sensitivity to light.
Abrasions can make your eye susceptible to bacterial or fungal infection, which can cause serious harm — even blindness — in as little as 24 hours.
If you have an abrasion, don’t rub the eye, and don’t patch it, either. Bacteria thrive in dark, warm places. Instead, loosely tape a paper cup or eye shield over the eye and come into our office as soon as possible for treatment.
Penetrating or foreign objects
If an object has penetrated your eye, such as a fish hook, don’t try to remove it — you could cause even more injury. Loosely tape an eye shield over the eye, then seek immediate medical attention.
It’s possible with this type of injury that you also have corneal foreign bodies, small, sharp pieces of metal that have become embedded in the cornea but haven’t yet penetrated into the eye’s interior. Since metal can quickly form a rust ring and significant scarring, it’s imperative that a doctor remove the pieces as soon as possible.
If you’ve been hit in the eye with a ball or someone’s hand and your eye’s become swollen and puffy, the best first step is to apply an ice pack.
It may turn out that you have nothing more than a black eye (bruising), but you should make an appointment with our office within 24 hours so a doctor can determine if there’s any internal damage.
This inflammation of the iris (colored part) surrounding the pupil occurs after an eye injury caused by a poke in the eye or a blow to it from a blunt object like a ball. It almost always requires treatment, but even with treatment, there’s a risk of permanent decreased vision.
Hyphemas and orbital blowout fractures
A hyphema describes bleeding in the anterior chamber of the eye, the area between the cornea and the iris. Orbital blowout fractures are breaks in the facial bones surrounding the eye, like the orbit (socket). The two injuries are caused by severe blunt force trauma, such as getting hit with a baseball, a hockey stick or puck, or a kick to the face.
Hyphemas and blowout fractures are considered medical emergencies. Call our office for an immediate appointment, or go to the nearest emergency room.
Treating eye injuries
The type of treatment you need depends on the type and severity of the eye injury you sustain. At Retina Specialists, our goal is to preserve your vision, and we always start with conservative treatments, recommending surgery only if necessary.
If you have an abrasion, your ophthalmologist may prescribe antibiotic drops to prevent infection while the tissue heals.
If you have a foreign object in your eye, the doctor will use a magnifier and tweezers to gently remove it from where it’s embedded.
If your eye pressure dramatically rises after an injury or other damage, you’re at risk for developing glaucoma, a degeneration of the optic nerve that can cause blindness. The doctor can start you on preventive treatments like corticosteroids and antibiotics.
If the high pressure eventually results in glaucoma, he may recommend medication to decrease eye fluid production or surgery to let the eye drain fluid more efficiently.
Surgery may be required to repair badly damaged inner-eye structures, such as when the light-sensing retina detaches from its supporting tissue, usually caused by a blow to the head.
If you’ve suffered an eye injury, don’t wait to get help — your vision is too precious to lose. Give Retina Specialists a call at any of our locations to schedule an urgent appointment.