Eye injuries can range from relatively trivial, such as irritating the eye with shampoo, to extremely serious, resulting in permanent loss of vision.
Eye injuries can occur in many settings; in the home, at work or when playing sports.
Common causes of eye injuries include:
- something like a small particle of grit or a twig damages the transparent front part of the eye known as the cornea – this type of injury is known as a corneal abrasion
- a foreign body such as a small piece of wood or metal gets stuck in the eye
- a sudden blow to the eye, from a fist or a cricket ball for example, causes the middle section of the eye (the uvea) to become swollen – this type of injury is known as traumatic uveitis
Less common and more serious types of eye injury include:
- exposure to harmful chemicals – this is known as an ocular chemical burn
- the eye becomes cut and starts bleeding
Read more about the causes of eye injuries.
Symptoms resulting from an eye injury include:
- eye pain – which can sometimes be severe
- redness and watering of the eye
- blurred vision
- sensitivity to light
Read more about the symptoms of eye injuries.
What to do
Wash your eyes out for 20 minutes if you think they have been exposed to a chemical. Ideally, you should wash the eye with saline solution, but tap water will be fine if saline is unavailable. Use plenty of water. Water from a garden hose or water fountain is okay if you're outside.
Then go immediately to your nearest A&E department.
It's also important to go to A&E if you cut your eye and it starts bleeding or if you have something stuck in your eye. Never try to remove anything from your eye as you could damage it.
Less serious eye injuries such as corneal abrasion and traumatic uveitis do not usually require immediate medical attention. But contact your GP if your symptoms show no sign of improvement after a few days or symptoms worsen.
Read more about the treatment of eye injuries.
Complications of an eye injury are uncommon but can be serious, such as an infection taking place inside an eye after a corneal abrasion.
Read more about the complications of eye injuries.
Not all eye injuries can be prevented, but you can reduce your risks by taking some precautions, such as:
- wearing appropriate eyewear when carrying out tasks that could damage your eyes, such as wearing safety goggles when using power tools to grind or chisel objects
- using good-quality sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet light
- carefully reading the labels when using household products and work in a well-ventilated area, making sure spray nozzles are pointing away from you before spraying
Read more about preventing eye injuries.