What is Considered a True Eye Emergency?

Accidents and injuries can affect any part of the body, including our eyes. Trouble is, since we rely completely on our eyes for our vision, we could end up paying for an injury with more than just our bank account if we don't react quick enough.


If you experience an eye emergency, it’s essential that you seek immediate support from a trained eyecare professional. This is because many eye emergencies have the potential to permanently affect your eyes and vision. The quicker you are seen by an experienced eye doctor, the less likely it is that you will suffer any long-term or permanent consequences from your accident or injury.


How Do Eye Accidents and Injuries Occur?

There are a million different ways in which accidents and injuries can occur. However, there are some jobs and activities in which damage to our eyes is more likely. These include:

  • Construction

  • Manufacturing

  • Mining

  • Carpentry

  • Auto-repair

  • Medical care

  • Maintenance

  • Welding

  • Plumbing

  • Electrical work

  • Sports, particularly those involving contact with other people or objects moving at speed such as a baseball or ice hockey puck

True Eye Emergencies

Here are a few of the eye emergencies that you should always seek urgent, professional advice for.

Acute Glaucoma

For most people, glaucoma is a slow-developing condition that will be diagnosed at your routine eye exams. Unfortunately, a small percentage of people develop acute glaucoma (also called closed-angle glaucoma). This is where you experience a sudden increase in eye pressure that causes damage to the optic nerve which is responsible for sending messages from the retina to the brain. This damage is irreversible, meaning immediate treatment is essential to prevent vision loss.

Signs of acute glaucoma include:


  • Severe eye pain

  • Crippling headaches

  • A feeling of pressure inside the head

  • Blurred vision

  • Sudden floaters or flashes in your field of vision

Orbital Cellulitis

Orbital cellulitis is an infection of the eyelid that then spreads behind the eye. It normally occurs when you have had a sinus infection that has spread to affect the surrounding tissues. The pressure caused by the infection pushes the eye forwards, so it appears to bulge from its socket. Immediate surgery is needed to drain the infection and relieve the pressure.

In addition to the bulging appearance of the eyes, you may also notice:

  • Swelling

  • Redness

  • Pain

  • Tenderness to the touch

Retinal Detachment

Retinal detachment is a vision-threatening problem that occurs when the retina comes away from the back of the eye. It must be treated as quickly as possible to prevent irreversible damage to your vision. Patients who have high prescriptions for near or farsightedness, uncontrolled diabetes, and who have experienced trauma to the eye are more at risk of retinal detachment.

Symptoms of retinal detachment include:

  • Sudden persistent flashes of light in your vision

  • Sudden blurred vision

  • A dark curtain or shadow moving across your field of vision

  • Dots/lines or floaters suddenly appear in large numbers


Chemical Burns

Chemical burns occur when a chemical substance comes into contact with the eye. This can happen directly, such as by spraying hairspray or a cleaning chemical into the eye. Alternatively, you could accidentally transfer chemicals into your eye using your fingers, a dirty cotton pad, or something similar. Chemical burns can be very painful and damage your vision if they are serious enough. It’ll be pretty obvious if you suffer a chemical burn, but you should make sure you rinse your eye with cool, running water for at least 15 minutes before you contact your emergency eye doctor. This could help minimize the impact of the chemical on your eyes and vision.

Penetration of the Eye

Most of us have had something in our eye during our lifetime. Usually, it’s an eyelash or piece of dirt that causes irritation but can be removed by careful flushing of the eye. However, sometimes a foreign object in the eye can be more serious. We strongly advise that you don’t rub your eyes as this could cause the cornea to become scratched and irritated, potentially making the damage worse. Instead, cover your affected eye with a paper cup or eye shield from your first aid kit, and contact your eye doctor straight away.



If you are experiencing a problem with your eyes or vision and are worried it may be an emergency, seek help immediately. You can contact Drs. Dobbins & Letourneau Eye Care in Lawrence, Kansas at (785) 843-5665 to schedule an appointment.

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