The human eye is an extremely complex and delicate structure. Whilst we often associate visual impairments with advancing age or conditions such as cataracts, there are in fact many reasons why the eyes can become damaged. Injuries to the eyes can take many forms and affect all ages, but in most cases they can be easily treated.
Common Eye Injuries
- Trauma - Blows to the eye or eye socket can damage the eyeball. Such injuries are commonly associated with sports, where an impact from a ball or another player cause the damage.
- Foreign bodies - A very common occurrence, this is where small particles (for example, grit or sand) become stuck in the eye. This particles can cause irritation and abrasion.
- Cuts, scratches and abrasions - These may be caused by fingernails, glass or small projectiles flung up whilst cutting or drilling.
- Chemical burns - If the eye is brought into contact with harmful or irritating chemicals, such as cleaning products, it may become damaged.
Treating Eye Injuries
Most eye injuries will only cause minor irritation and should clear up within 24 hours. However, to aid the recovery, it is often beneficial to 'flush' the affected eye, especially if the damage is the result of foreign bodies or chemicals. Flushing is the process of 'washing' the eyeball with clean water to help remove any harmful particles or chemical residue. To flush the eye, you should simply run clean water over the surface of the eye for around 10 - 15 minutes. This can be done by manually pouring water over the eye or using an eye shower. You should also make an effort not to touch or rub the eye.
Seeking Medical Attention
In certain cases, you may require medical attention to treat the injury. If the irritation remains after 24 hours, and after the eye has been thoroughly flushed, it is advised that you visit a doctor or an optometrist. Other reasons for seeking medical or specialist advice include foreign bodies that can't be removed with flushing, visible cuts on the surface of the eye, impaired vision, or blood in the eye. If there is an object embedded in the eye, you should not attempt to remove it yourself.
The role of an optometrist in the treatment of an eye injury will vary according to the exact cause. They may remove foreign objects in a sterile manner or prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection. In cases of serious injury, a surgical procedure may be required to repair the bones surrounding the eye.