Managing Eye Injuries

The human eye is such a delicate anatomical body part that it is easily susceptible to all sorts of physical and chemical injuries with the threat to impairing visual acuity if left untreated in a timely manner.


The most common symptom of mild eye injury is reddening of eye, swelling of the inner linings of the upper and lower eyelids and pain in the affected eye.  These are enough to prompt anyone to seek immediate relief from their doctors or heath centers.  However, not all eye injuries can cause these symptoms.  Tiny foreign matter or projectiles from your work environment or road can lodge in your eyes without causing pain.  That’s because the posterior vitreous humour and retina do not have nerve endings to transmit sensations of pain when intraocular foreign bodies lodge in them.

For more severe traumatic eye injuries, the symptoms can include bleeding and leakage of internal eye content, loss or impairment of vision and intense pain and will depend on the kind of injury the eye receives.

Sources of Eye Injuries

Just about any projectile made of metal, wood, glass stone, plastics or any hard objects can traumatize the eye.  Even sporting gears like cricket ball, squash ball, tennis all and or badminton shuttle cock and other objects traveling at high speeds can cause varying degrees of injury to your eye.  The eye can receive a trauma from a fistfight and bb guns.  Even joyous occasion can turn painful when firecrackers meant to celebrate it get to our eye.  Road accidents cause some of the most sever eye injuries that is often part of a wider head or face injury where shards of metal or glass can get embedded in tissues, cause orbital fractures, multiple lacerations or severe hematoma with prolapse of eye content.  Even workplaces are not safe.  Fine metal projectiles from foundries and environmental particulates can get to your eye.  That why you should follow safety procedures like wearing goggles when doing such tasks.

A recent study of eye injuries show that sports related injuries due to eyeglasses were a common occurrence among young people under age 18 while fall injuries due to eyeglasses occurred more among those aged 65 and more.  But despite these, wearing eyeglasses, whether prescription or cosmetic, has been found to provide significant eye protection against severe eye injuries.

Types of Eye Injuries

Some of the more serious eye injuries can fall under any of the following classification:

  • Traumatic iris is an inflammation of the colored part of the eye around the pupil and is caused by a poke on a blunt trauma coming from a fist or a ball.
  • In a more severe case, orbital blowout fracture of the occipital globe can occur when the trauma is forceful enough to fracture of the medical wall of the eyeball caused by a sudden external pressure on its contents.
  • Hyphema occurs when there is bleeding in the anterior chamber of the eye between the iris and the cornea.
  • Penetrating trauma happens when the eyeball integrity is breached with a full entry wound that result in a prolapse of internal eye contents/
  • Perforating trauma happens when the eyeball gets an entry and exit wounds or what is referred a through and through injury.  This is considered quite severe.
  • Closed injury or non-penetrating trauma happens when the eyeball remains intact but the eye has been severely affected by a blunt trauma.

Dealing with Eye Injuries

In any eye injury, you get to your doctor right away. Slight physical or accidental chemical splashes to the eye that cause immediate reddening, itchiness or discomfort on the affected eye can be dealt with immediately by copious irrigation using sterile or isotonic saline water.  In many cases a simple trip to the bath to copiously flush the eye with clean tap water may be enough. Chemical burns happening on the conjunctiva or corneas are more severe and should be attended to as medical emergencies that require treatment with minutes.

Corneal abrasions, deep eyelid lacerations, arc welder burns, trauma to the lachrymal glands or a traumatic optic neuropathy should be treated within hours of occurrence. 

In some cases of eye injury such as those involving corneal abrasion, a pressure patch should be applied to the affected eye to create some tension and to discourage the patient from opening the eye.  In cases of eyeball penetration injuries, a pressure patch is ill-advised and instead, a shield patch is recommended to protect the eye without pressure. It is often advised to patch both eyes to minimize eyeball movement. If the uninjured eye moves, the injured eye involuntarily follows which can cause more damage or prolong healing.

Suturing may be part of the suitable primary care management in eye injuries involving eyelid lacerations, provided that the laceration is not deep, threaten the canaliculi or affect the eyelid margins.