As I'm sure you well know, even an eyelash in your eye can be very painful. So an eye injury such as a black eye, a foreign object in the eye, or a cut on the cornea is definitely cause for medical attention.
Try to get in to see your family physician if that's possible. Your own physician is always your best bet because he or she knows you and your family—your medical history and medical insurance information doesn't have to be repeated.
Glaucoma is a condition in which fluid builds up in the eye, creating pressure on the optic nerve in the back of the eye. It can result in blindness. Glaucoma usually builds slowly over time, and unfortunately, its early symptoms often are not noticed. Therefore, the best first aid medicine is prevention. You should visit your ophthalmologist or optician every two years to keep glaucoma at bay. Although rare, acute glaucoma (or, to be exact, acute angle closure glaucoma) causes immediate, sudden vision loss. Get thee to an emergency ward immediately if sudden vision loss occurs!
Of course, as we all know, accidental injuries don't always take place at convenient times. If you can't see your family doctor, try a 24 hour Medicenter (a facility staffed with physicians for walk-in medical care). As a last resort, go to the hospital. Emergency rooms usually mean a long wait, but they are still your best bet if something happens in the middle of the night. Trust your judgment: If you are feeling panicked, take the injured person to the emergency room. However, if the situation seems to be under control and you are relatively calm, the Medicenter will probably suffice. (Sometimes the reason to go to the Medicenter or the emergency ward is one of convenience. Go to the one that is closer to your house!)
The main point is that you should get help quickly! Whether you go to your private physician, a Medicenter, or an emergency room, do not wait when someone suffers an injury to the eye.
There's a Fly in My Eye!
Flecks of dirt, bugs, and eyelashes all irritate the eye. Of course, they usually feel much bigger than they are: one grain of sand can feel like a large stone. In addition to pain and irritation, a foreign object in the eye can also cause redness, a stinging sensation when the person blinks, and sudden light sensitivity.
Unfortunately, these symptoms can cause someone to panic. An injured person's first impulse is usually to rub the eye to try to get rid of the pain. But this can have the opposite effect. Rubbing the eye can dig the dirt in deeper, causing more damage and making it even harder to remove.
All foreign objects in the eye must be removed, but emergency medical aid is especially important if the injury affects the victim's vision. Specifically, if a person experiences blurred vision or sees waves, light specs, or blackness, he or she needs immediate attention.
- Flush the eye with cool, clean water. Use a pitcher, a glass, or an eye dropper if you're not near a sink. If the object is lying on the surface of the eyeball, the flushing action should remove the object.
- If you can still see the object on the eye and it does not flush out with the water, gently cover BOTH eyes with gauze pads and seek help as fast as you can.
If you cannot see anything in the injured person's eye, an object might be stuck under the eyelid. Follow these steps to treat that type of eye injury:
- Flush the eye with cool, clean water and see if that alleviates the pain.
- If flushing the eye doesn't work, first wash your hands to prevent infection.
- Place the injured person under a good light (or anchor a flashlight so that you can see into the eye and still use both hands).
- Have the person look up, and then you gently pull down the lower lid. If you can see a particle on the inside of the lower lid or at the lower edge of the eyeball, either flush it out with an eyedropper or gently touch a wet Q-tip or a moistened gauze strip or handkerchief to the particle so it adheres to the cotton.
- Remove the Q-tip and rinse the eye with cool water
- If you can't see anything on the lower lid, check the upper one. Take another Q-tip and curl the lashes and upper lid over it. Be careful not to pull.
- If you see an object on the upper lid or on the upper surface of the eyeball, try flushing it out with water while holding the curled Q-tip in place.
- If that doesn't work, very gently touch the particle with a wet Q-tip to see if it will adhere to the cotton.
- Release the upper lid and rinse the eye with cool water.
Before You Put the Band-Aid On
Why cover both eyes if only one eye is affected? Your eyes work in combination. Keeping both eyes “closed” helps prevent all eye movement. This helps prevent excess irritation and provides a soothing effect (sort of a mini-sleep tank). Also, covering both eyes minimizes damage just in case there's an embedded object in the other eye that you cannot see.