Emergency Eye Care

What is an Eye Emergency?

An eye emergency is an event where eyesight is at risk. Events that risk eyesight requires prompt treatment to prevent vision loss.


What are the symptoms of an eye emergency?

The following symptoms require immediate consultation:

  • Chemical contact with eye or face
  • Severe eye, head, or face injury
  • Sudden loss of all or part of your vision
  • Bulging eye
  • Painful eye
  • The onset of flashing lights, floaters, or a noticeable increase in the amount of flashes and floaters
  • The appearance of a “veil” or curtain across the field of vision
  • Sudden changes in pupil size
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Foreign body in the eye
  • Double Vision
  • Post-operative patients with pain in or around the eye, infectious discharge, increased redness, or decreased vision (in either eye)

The following symptoms require contacting us as soon as possible:

  • The sensation of a foreign body present
  • Excessive tearing
  • Presence of pus or crusting


What do I do?

A complete evaluation by one of our doctors is essential after any type of eye injury. Anyone who sustains a serious injury to the eye, including blunt injuries, should be seen as soon as possible. If you feel you have an emergency, please telephone so we can schedule you appropriately or advise you on what steps to take. If one of our doctors is not immediately available to assist or direct you, report to the nearest emergency room. We cannot offer specific medical advice through this website but we will make the general following recommendations:


Chemicals in the Eye

If you get an acidic or caustic chemical in your eye (e.g., chemical burn), please stop reading this and irrigate your eye with clean contact lens solution, if none is available, you may use clean tap water. Do this for 15 minutes, and then call Bell Family Eye Care or go directly to the nearest emergency room.


Mechanical Injury to the Eye

If you mechanically injure your eye or something gets in your eye, DO NOT push on your eye. DO cover your eye with a rigid shield, if one is available. However, do not put anything under the shield that would press on your eye. A rigid shield can be fashioned from the bottom of a paper cup. Alternatively, put your glasses or sunglasses on, which will also provide protection. Construction activities account for a large percentage of eye injuries seen at the Infirmary. Many of these injuries are preventable by use of appropriate eye safety protection. Everyone engaged in construction activities, either at home or on the job, should wear eye protection at all times. Sports activities also account for a large number of eye injuries every year. Many people do not realize that sports activities such as basketball and golf can be associated with significant eye injuries. Many children also sustain eye injuries during sports. and therefore, protective eyewear during such activity is encouraged.


Minor Eye Injury

For minor or less urgent injuries, please calling our office is often the wisest choice. Flashing lights and floaters The sudden onset of many floating spots and flashing lights in association with the feeling that part of the vision is covered by a black curtain or a shade may represent a retinal tear or detachment. An examination is essential as soon as these symptoms appear. Anyone who has the onset of new floaters with or without flashing lights should be seen for a dilated fundus exam as soon as possible.


Viral conjunctivitis

Viral conjunctivitis is a very common infection of the outer layer of the eye, the conjunctiva, usually caused by the common cold virus. Treatment is largely supportive, consisting of cool compresses and artificial tears. Often we give an antibiotic ointment to soothe the eye and protect it from bacterial infection, but this does not treat the viral process, which resolves on its own. Patients with viral conjunctivitis are contagious for approximately seven days after the onset of symptoms. Patients should be very careful to avoid touching their eyes and frequent hand washing is advised. The symptoms of viral conjunctivitis can last up to three weeks and may fluctuate before finally resolving. Viral conjunctivitis is very common, especially in the winter months. Nonetheless, not all cases of a red eye are viral conjunctivitis and anyone who has a red eye that does not seem to be improving should be seen to rule out other causes.

Prevention of Eye Injuries

Protective Equipment
The good news is that most of these injuries can be prevented with protective eyewear. The best prevention of an eye injury is to use protective eye equipment as appropriate such as, when playing sports, or working with caustic chemicals. For other eye emergencies, the best prevention is an immediate response to the symptoms of an eye emergency. To reduce your risk of injury, wear certified protective eyewear whenever you play ball sports or hockey. Certified lenses display approval stickers from either the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Regular glasses, sunglasses, open-sided eye guards, and contact lenses do not provide adequate protection. Adequate eye protection is especially important for people with low vision or a blind eye, as they may be at greater risk of going completely blind after suffering an eye injury.


If you would like more details on Emergency Eye Care Services at Bell Family Eye Care please call us at 573.785.5500.