Treating an Eye Injury

If you do sustain an eye injury, see an Eye M.D. (ophthalmologist) or visit the nearest emergency room right away, even if the injury seems minor at first. A serious eye injury is not always immediately obvious. Delaying medical attention can cause the damaged areas to worsen and could result in permanent vision loss or blindness.

  • Do not rub the eye. If any tissue is torn, rubbing may cause more damage.
  • Shield the eye from pressure or rubbing action by taping or securing the bottom of a foam cup or similar type of shield against the bones surrounding the eye (brow, cheek and bridge of nose).
  • Do not apply ointment or medication to the eye. These medications may not be sterile and could make the eye area slippery, which could slow the Eye M.D.’s examination.
  • To treat cuts or punctures to the eye, bandage the eye without any pressure and seek emergency medical care immediately. Do not attempt to wash the eye or remove any object stuck in the eye. A paper cup held over the injured eye can help protect it until you can get to your Eye M.D. or emergency room.
  • In case of a chemical burn to the eye, immediately flush the eye with clean water and seek emergency medical treatment right away.
  • To treat a blow to the eye, gently apply a small cold compress to reduce pain and swelling, but don’t apply any pressure. Remember that even a light blow can cause a significant eye injury. If a black eye, pain or visual disturbance occurs even after a light blow, immediately contact your Eye M.D. or emergency room.
  • To treat sand or small debris in the eye, use eyewash to flush the eye out. Do not rub the eye. If the debris doesn’t come out, lightly bandage the eye and see an Eye M.D. or visit the nearest emergency room.
  • Avoid giving aspirin, ibuprofen or other non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs thin the blood and may increase bleeding. Also, the pain associated with an eye injury is often excruciating and a non-prescription medication may not help. Do not delay help by waiting for a painkiller to take hold. Go directly to an Eye M.D. or emergency room.

© Copyright 2003 American Academy of Ophthalmology