Your eyes are sensitive, hard-working organs. If you’re experiencing sudden eye pain, vision loss, or changes to your vision, take action immediately to care for your eyes and protect your vision.
In some cases, waiting too long to deal with an eye emergency could lead to permanent vision loss. In other cases, new eye symptoms might be an indication of an undiagnosed eye disease or condition.
Contact us as soon as possible for a same-day emergency appointment. Existing patients can access our 24-hour answering service, but we’re also available to provide emergency appointments during business hours for first-time patients to our practice.
10 Eye Care Emergencies To Know
In many cases, flushing the affected eye with clean water for 15 minutes is a good first step while you seek further help. Always avoid rubbing your eyes, especially in an eye care emergency.
If you, your child, or someone you’re assisting is experiencing any of these situations or symptoms, contact us for an appointment. In serious situations where you can’t reach us immediately, please call 911 or head straight to an emergency room.
1. A Scratch On The Eye
The outer layer of your eye, called the cornea, can be scratched when debris makes contact with it. This is called a corneal abrasion and while minor cases can often be treated by flushing the eyes, an eye exam can help assess whether there’s any risk of infection or inflammation.
The scratch might be caused by dust, dirt, a contact lens, sand, or particles of metal, wood, or glass. Symptoms might include:
- Pain or a gritty feeling in your eye
- Lots of tears
- Sensitivity to light
- A headache
2. Foreign Object in Eye
Do not attempt to remove something that is lodged in the eye. Head straight to an emergency department for assistance.
3. Blunt Force Trauma
Blunt force trauma to the eye commonly happens during sports, especially thanks to errant balls. Being hit on or near the eye can cause damage to the eye itself, as well as the eyelid and surrounding bones.
Symptoms after being hit in the eye can vary widely, but might include:
- Visual symptoms (blurry vision, double vision, loss of vision)
- Physical symptoms (pain, bleeding, bruising, cuts, swelling)
Treatment will depend on an optometrist or ophthalmologist’s assessment of the situation, but could include ice packs, pain medication, bed rest, or even surgery.
4. Chemical Eye Burn
In many cases of chemical exposure, flushing the eye is the best first step, though you may also want to consult your local poison control center for further steps in addition to booking an emergency eye care appointment.
Initial symptoms of a chemical eye burn can include:
- Eye pain, redness, and irritation
- Excessive tearing
- Being unable to keep the eye open
- The sensation of something in the eye
- Eyelid swelling
- Blurry vision
5. Sudden Increase in Floaters & Flashes
It’s normal to occasionally see floaters, which look a bit like dust marks in your vision, or flashes, which are like sparks of light that seem to come from within your eye. But a sudden increase in either of these could be due to something serious.
A sudden increase in floaters and flashes may be a sign of:
- An eye infection or injury
- Inflammation in the eye
- Bleeding inside the eye
- Retinal detachment, which is a serious emergency that requires immediate attention or could result in permanent vision loss (see #10 for more information)
An appointment with your eye doctor can help determine the likely cause of your symptoms.
6. Black Spots or “Holes” in Vision
Any type of vision loss is a reason to seek timely medical help. Holes or black spots in your vision, along with flashes of light and blurry vision, could be a sign of diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is a serious disease that can affect the eyes of people with diabetes when their blood sugar is not well-controlled over a long period of time. Diabetic retinopathy typically has no symptoms in its earliest stages, but it can be detected in an eye exam, which is why it’s so important for people with diabetes to keep up with their annual eye exams.
Timely treatment can prevent diabetic retinopathy from causing permanent vision loss.
7. Sudden Eye pain
Any sudden eye pain is a potentially serious situation.
Sudden sharp pain in your eye could be caused by:
- Debris like dust, dirt, sawdust, or glass
- Plant material, like a portion of a pine needle, which can cause iris irritation
- Cluster headaches
- Contact lenses, including a scratch or infection related to improper contact lens use or hygiene
8. Unexplained Redness, Blurry Vision, & Light Sensitivity With Pain
Together, redness, blurry vision, light sensitivity and eye pain could be signs of uveitis, which is an inflammation of part of your eye called the uvea.
Uveitis can be caused by infection or injury, or it could be related to an autoimmune disorder, though it’s not always possible to determine the cause. Untreated, uveitis may lead to optic nerve damage and permanent vision loss.
See your eye doctor soon if you think you might have symptoms of uveitis, and make an emergency appointment right away if you have sudden pain or vision loss.
9. Nausea, Vomiting, Headache, Blurry Vision, & Sudden Severe Eye Pain
A combination of nausea, vomiting, headache, blurry vision, and sudden eye pain could be signs of acute closed-angle glaucoma. This is a form of glaucoma that happens fast and needs immediate emergency treatment.
You may be at a higher risk if closed-angle glaucoma runs in your family, or if you’re of Southeast Asian or Alaska Native origins.
10. A Curtain-Like Shadow Across Vision, Flashes or Floaters, & Blurry Vision Without Pain
A sudden increase in flashes or floaters alone can be a sign of retinal detachment, which is a serious emergency that requires immediate care for the best chance of preserving your vision. Retinal detachment may also be accompanied by blurry vision and a curtain-like shadow across your field of view.
Retinal detachment is painless, but can cause permanent blindness if it’s not treated right away.
You might be at a higher risk of retinal detachment if:
- You’re over 50
- You have a previous history of an eye injury
- You have a family history of retinal detachment
- You have high myopia (nearsightedness)
How To Prevent Eye Injuries
Every year, more than 850,000 Americans suffer eye injuries at work, at home, and while playing sports.
- Ensure your household has ANSI-approved eyewear available for protection during housework and chores
- Never mix cleaning products
- Check your lawn for hazards before mowing
- Keep your tools in good working condition
- Clear kids and other bystanders out of the area when making repairs or doing yard work
Come See Us
Your long-term vision health is our top priority. Please contact us immediately if you think you’re experiencing an eye care emergency, so we can support you to get the medical assistance you need.