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Check Your Symptoms
It's common for a speck of dirt to get blown into your eye, for soap to wash into your eye, or for you to accidentally bump your eye. For these types of minor eye injuries, home treatment is usually all that's needed.
Some sports and activities increase the risk of eye injuries.
Direct blows to the eye can damage the skin and other tissues around the eye, the eyeball, or the bones of the eye socket. Blows to the eye often cause bruising around the eye (black eye) or cuts to the eyelid. If a blow to the eye or a cut to the eyelid occurred during an accident, be sure to check for injuries to the eyeball itself. And check for other injuries, especially to the head or face. Concern about an eye injury may cause you to miss other injuries that need care.
Burns to the eye may be caused by chemicals, fumes, hot air or steam, sunlight, tanning lamps, curling irons or hair dryers, or welding equipment. Bursts of flames or flash fires from stoves or explosives can also burn the face and eyes.
A foreign object in the eye, such as dirt, an eyelash, a contact lens, or makeup, can cause eye symptoms.
In the case of a car air bag inflating, all three types of eye injuries can occur. The force of impact can cause a blow to the eye, foreign objects may enter the eye, and chemicals in the air bag can burn the eye.
You can prevent eye injuries by using protective eyewear. Wear safety glasses, goggles, or face shields when you work with power tools or chemicals. And use this eyewear when you do any activity that might cause an object or substance to get into your eyes. Some professions, such as health care and construction, may require workers to use protective eyewear to reduce the risk of foreign objects or substances or body fluids getting in the eyes. If you have sight in only one eye, wear a sports eye protector under a face shield for added protection.
After an eye injury, you need to watch for vision changes and symptoms of an infection. Vision changes include flashes of light (photopsia) and new floaters. Signs of infection include pain and blurred vision. Most minor eye injuries can be treated at home.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
There are a couple of ways to safely remove an object from the eye.
Do not try to remove:
To remove a nonmetal object that is on the surface of the eye or inside the eyelid:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in children are:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Most minor eye injuries can be treated at home.
Try a nonprescription pain medicine such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin to relieve pain. It's not recommended that you take aspirin if you are age 20 or younger.
If you are concerned that your eye symptoms may be more serious, you may need to check with your doctor.
Ice and cold packs can reduce the pain, swelling, and bleeding of an injury. Cold therapy is usually used immediately after an injury.
For an eye injury, use one of the following methods:
Wet a towel with cold water and squeeze it until it is just damp. Fold the towel, place it in a plastic bag, and freeze it for 15 minutes. Remove the towel from the bag and place it on the eye. Use this method when an ice pack is too heavy to put on the eye.
Place ice in a plastic, leak-proof bag wrapped in a single layer of cloth, such as a towel or washcloth. The ice can be cracked into small pieces to make the pack more flexible. Do not place ice directly on the skin.
Use a small bag of frozen peas or corn wrapped in a towel.
Do not use chemical cooling packs. If the pack leaks, the chemicals could cause more eye damage.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
June 6, 2023
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
Current as of: June 6, 2023
Clinical Review Board:
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2023 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
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