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Eye Injury – Symptoms, Causes, First Aid and Treatment

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Eyes are an essential pair of sensory organs that helps us see the beautiful world around us. The eyes consist of delicate tissues and blood vessels protected by external structures, such as eyelids, muscles, etc., and any eye injury requires immediate attention and first aid to protect them. First aid for the eyes is necessary irrespective of the cause of trauma to prevent any infection, blindness, or vision loss.  

What are the Symptoms of an Eye Injury?

Some of the symptoms of an eye injury include:

  • The most common symptoms due to a cut or scratch (corneal abrasions) in the eye are excessive pain, irritation, a feeling that something is in the eye, excessive watering of the eye, and light sensitivity.   
  • The most common symptoms of a chemical burn from acids and alkalis are intense pain and burning. The eyes and eyelids become swollen and red, and the eyes water excessively.
  • The symptoms due to radiation include sensitivity to light, pain, a feeling that something is in the eyes, and redness.
  • The most common symptoms of an injury caused by a foreign body are feeling of something stuck in the eye, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and constant watering of the eye.
  • In most cases, subconjunctival haemorrhage (bleeding) will not cause vision loss or pain. There will be a red spot of blood in the white part of the eye that is injured. The blood spot may be large or small, depending upon the nature of the trauma. If there are no other symptoms like pain or irritation, this kind of injury is not a cause of alarm.
  • Traumatic iritis can cause excessive pain in and around the eye area, light sensitivity, and excessive watering

What are the Causes of an Eye Injury?

Some potential causes of eye injury include:

  • Cut or scratch. A cornea is a dome-like shield over your eyes. You may accidentally scratch the cornea with your fingers, a stick, or any other sharp object, which can be harmful. If you injure your cornea, you may witness symptoms like pain, redness, tears, blurred vision, or irritation. Although small scratches can heal on their own, deeper scratches may cause vision loss or infection.
  • Chemical burns. Some chemicals can adversely affect your eyes. The most dangerous burns are due to alkalis present in drain cleaners or fertilizers. Acids, bleach, and the chemicals used in swimming pools can also cause burns but are less harmful. The chemicals can enter the eyes while rubbing or an accidental splash of liquid into the eyes.
  • Radiation or ultraviolet keratitis. The ultraviolet rays of the sun can burn your eyes and cause redness and irritation. This type of injury happens in tanning booths; by using welding arcs; and sunlight reflected by water or snow. These accidents occur in higher altitudes where the ultraviolet rays are intense.    
  • Foreign objects. When a foreign object, such as a piece of glass or a piece of your lens, enter your eyes, it can lead to a penetrating eye injury, resulting in blindness or partial vision loss.
  • Bleeding or subconjunctival hemorrhage. A blood vessel runs from the white portion of the eye (sclera) and clear covering of the eyes. If there is a break or injury caused to this blood vessel, it leads to bleeding. This kind of eye injury is painless and therefore goes unnoticed but may prove harmful in the long run if they do not heal themselves.
  • Traumatic iritis: Iris is the colored portion of the eyes. If there is an injury to the iris owing to a sudden blow to the eye, it may harm the iris causing excessive pain and inflammation.

When to See a Doctor?

You can handle minor eye injuries with first aid at home.  It is advisable to immediately seek medical attention if there are deep cuts, bleeding, or if anything sharp gets inside your eyes. You should see the doctor if you notice the following symptoms after an eye accident:

  • Change in vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Swelling of the eyes and eyelids
  • Excessive pain
  • Torn eyelid
  • Excessive pain in and around the eyes
  • Headache and vomiting

Treatment or First-aid Techniques to Save the Loss of Sight

  • Cut or scratch: If you have accidentally scratched your eye, do not rub or patch it. Keep the eye closed and seek medical attention.
  • Chemical burn: Do not rub the eyes. Wash your injured eye with lots of water for fifteen to twenty minutes. Do not bandage your eyes and get medical help as soon as possible.
  • Radiation: Harm to the eyes from ultraviolet rays requires treatment. Therefore you should consult an ophthalmologist if you notice any symptoms due to radiation. 
  • Foreign object: It is best not to rub your eyes.  Blink repeatedly after pulling the upper eyelid downwards. If the thing is still there, rinse your eyes with water continuously. If that too does not help, bandage your eye lightly and seek medical attention.
  • Bleeding (subconjunctival hemorrhage): If there is no change in vision or pain, the bleeding will go away on its own. If you notice blurred vision, decreased vision, or pain, seek medical attention.
  • Traumatic iritis: You can apply a cold compress without putting pressure on your eyes. You can take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If you notice bleeding, bruising, or vision change, you should consult a doctor.

How Can an Eye Injury be Prevented? 

You can prevent eye injury by being careful and following the safety measures mentioned below:

  • Avoid any injury by wearing safety glasses when operating with tools or using harmful chemicals.
  • Wear welder’s goggles to avoid ultraviolet keratitis. If you work in tanning booths, use eye coverings.
  • Do not rub your eyes with bare hands.
  • Use sunglasses if you look directly at the sun to protect your eyes from ultraviolet rays, especially in higher altitudes.


First aid is essential to save vision loss owing to an accident or in an emergency. It takes time to reach the hospital; meanwhile, first aid may help and prevent complete blindness. Eyes are delicate, and therefore, medical attention is necessary to save them.  Follow the first-aid techniques mentioned above for any eye injury and see your doctor in an emergency.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can the eye heal itself?

Small scratches can heal themselves, but larger and deeper cuts will require medical attention to avoid vision loss.

What are the types of eye injury?

There are several types of eye injuries like a corneal abrasion, acute hyphema, punctured eyeball, cut or scratch, subconjunctival hemorrhage, or traumatic iritis.

Can you go blind from getting hit in the eye?

Yes, eye injuries can lead to blindness if the injury is serious. If any part of the eye, like the optic nerve, is damaged by the hit, it can lead to total blindness. 

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