Your eyes are extremely precise and delicate instruments, capable of detecting even minute amounts of light or subtle shifts in color, but this sensitivity also makes them extremely vulnerable to damage and injury. According to the United States Injury Registry Summary report, more than 50,000 people permanently lose all or part of their vision as a result of the more than 2.5 million eye injuries that occur annually. While as many of 90% of these injuries can be prevented through the use of protective eyewear, like that carried in our on-site Optical Center, you may not always be able to protect yourself from unforeseen occurrences. So it is extremely important to know what to do when eye trauma does occur.
Injuries to the eye are most commonly the result of airborne particles of sand, glass, wood, plastic, or metal that get blown into the eye. If this occurs, it is important to remember that the eye itself produces tears, in part, to flush such irritants from the clear front layer of the eye, or cornea. Our eyes “water” precisely because the body is trying to protect itself from these foreign bodies. If the material is small enough, you may be able to assist your body’s natural defense mechanism by gently pulling the upper eyelid down over the lower and blinking repeatedly, flooding the eye with extra tears. If this is insufficient to dislodge the particle, carefully flush the eye with a sterile saline solution and use a moist cotton swab to gently wipe away the foreign body. Avoid rubbing the eye, as this could aggravate the injury and cause the foreign particles to scratch the cornea.
Larger objects can pose a much more serious problem, possibly penetrating the cornea and becoming lodged inside it. If you are treating an eye that has been cut or punctured by a foreign object, seek the immediate attention of a medical professional. Do not attempt to wash the eye or remove anything stuck in it. Instead, protect the eye from accidental rubbing by covering it with a rigid, circular object — cutting out the bottom of a paper cup will create an effective protective shell that can cover the eye without touching it. Do not put pressure directly on the eye but simply affix the protective covering using a piece of tape and go to an eye doctor or emergency room right away. Similarly, if the eye has been forcibly struck by a blunt object, like a baseball for example, apply a cold compress to the area around the eye, but do not put direct pressure on the eyeball itself. If there is bruising, bleeding, or a change in vision, or if it hurts when the eye moves, see a board-certified ophthalmologist, like Dr. William Segal, right away.
Lastly, eyes can often suffer significant damage if exposed to household cleaners or other caustic chemicals. If this occurs, immediately wash out the eye using the nearest source of fresh water and contact medical assistance. Continue flushing the eye for at least 15 minutes, keeping the eye wide open and allowing the water to run over and cleanse it. You may need to stand underneath a showerhead or place your head directly beneath a running faucet and use both hands to keep the injured eye open while flushing it. Having information about the specific chemical involved (which is usually printed on the packaging) will help emergency personnel treat the injury more effectively. Avoid rubbing the affected area, as this may cause further irritation or damage, and do not cover or put anything over the eye, then go to an emergency room immediately.
If you are interested in visiting our Optical Center or in any of the services we offer, please contact Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons today. Be sure to follow Dr. William Segal and Dr. Marc Lay on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more tips for healthy eyes.