Eye Injury

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Overview of Eye Injury

An estimated 2.4 million eye injuries occur in USA each year, a significant number of which lead to vision loss.1 A recent study had shown that working people and students most commonly suffer from eye injuries and that men are five times more frequently injured than women. Further, the most often causes of injury had been shown to be caused by pieces of wood, sharp objects and glass pieces.2 Although most chemical eye burns are mild injuries with no lasting adverse effects, severe injuries might lead to serious visual impairment.3

The symptoms of an injured eye may vary from a slow, gradual onset to a sudden problem and may include moderate-to-severe pain, swelling, decreased vision, photophobia (sensitivity to light), frontal headache, hyphema (blood in the anterior chamber), loss of anterior chamber depth or deviation of the pupil toward the laceration.

In the event of an eye injury, timely and appropriate eye care can prevent blindness. Although first aid is helpful, medical care must be obtained quickly, as it is difficult for a non-professional to know the extent of damage to the eye.

First Aid of Eye Injury

Most eye injuries are preventable, nevertheless, when an eye injury occurs, the following first aid can be given immediately:

  • Following a chemical eye burn, rinse the eyes immediately with gently flowing water for at least 20 min (rinse over contact lenses, do not remove them). Although saline solution is preferable, regular tap water is an acceptable alternative. Do not bandage the eye.
  • When an eye or eyelid is cut, gently place a shield over the eye or bandage the eye lightly and seek medical care right away. Do not try to wash the eye or remove any objects stuck in the eye. Do not rub or apply pressure to the injured eye or lid.
  • If there is a blow or blunt impact to the eye, immediately place an ice compress for no more than 20 minutes at a time, 4 to 8 times a day.
  • Small loose conjunctival foreign bodies can be removed with the edge of a tissue or a cotton bud or flushed out gently with water. Intraocular and intraorbital foreign bodies cannot be treated at home.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Educate parents and children about the potential for eye injuries at home and during hazardous activities.
  • Promote the use of appropriate protective eyewear during activities with a high-risk of trauma to the eyes.
  • Stock a first aid kit with an eye shield and commercial eyewash.

For all eye injuries:

  • Do not touch, rub or apply pressure to the eye.
  • Do not try to remove the object stuck in the eye.
  • Do not apply any ointment or medication to the eye.
  • Do not take aspirin for any pain, as this will increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Following first aid, seek emergency medical treatment immediately.


1.Brophy M, Sinclair SA, Hostetler SG, et al. Pediatric eye injury-related hospitalizations in the United States. Pediatrics. 2006; 117(6): e1263–1271.

2.Jovanović M. Mechanical injuries of the eyeball: frequency, structure, and possibility of the prevention. Srp Arh Celok Lek. 2006; 134(1-2): 11–21 (Article in Serbian).

3.Midelfart A, Hagen YC, Myhre GB. Chemical burns to the eye. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2004; 124(1): 49–51  (Article in Norwegian).

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Written by: healthplus24 team
Date last updated: May 02, 2015

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