Determining if the eye problem you are experiencing is an emergency or not can be difficult. It would be impossible to write a post with a comprehensive list of problems, symptoms, and injuries that might qualify as eye emergencies. Anytime you believe you are having an eye or any other medical emergency, seek immediate professional help. In this post, we will cover several eye emergencies.

    If you experience any of these symptoms or injuries, immediately seek assistance as a delay may result in permanent eye damage, diminished vision, blindness, or even loss of the eye itself:

    • Sudden haziness, blurred, or lost vision in one or both eyes
    • Loss of peripheral (side) vision
    • Disturbances of the visual field such as flashes of light or black spots or halos or rainbows around light
    • One eye protruding more than the other or with limited range of motion
    • The pupils are two different sizes, or one pupil is an unusual shape
    • Chemicals in the eye
    • Nausea or headache with eye pain
    • Uncontrolled bleeding from or around the eye
    • Blood under the cornea
    • A torn eyelid
    • An object embedded in or penetrating the eye (do NOT remove the item)
    • Foreign matter under the eyelid that can’t be easily removed

    There are many additional signs and symptoms of eye problems that may or may not be serious. If you feel that your problem is not an emergency, call Silverstein Eye Centers at 816-358-3600 to make an appointment to be evaluated.


    Chemical exposure to the eye should always be treated as an emergency, although the severity of the injury and danger of long term damage varies. In the process of seeking emergency help for chemical exposure, continuously flush both eyes with copious amounts of clean water or saline. There is no such thing as too much water in this situation. Acid burns are less severe than burns from alkaline substances, but without treatment, both may lead to permanent damage or blindness. If the person exposed is wearing contact lenses, the water may cause the lenses to slip out, but if not have the person attempt to remove the lenses with clean fingers.


    While dust or grit in the eye may be irritating, they are not likely emergencies. However, any object that has punctured the eye should not be removed under any circumstances. Don’t touch it, apply pressure, or attempt to move it. Seek emergency help immediately. With clean hands, apply bandages to both eyes. If the object is large, cover it with some type of cup, cone, or shield and tape the covering to the skin, and cover the other eye with gauze. Because both eyes move as we look at things, it is important to cover both eyes to prevent the injured eye from moving.


    With enough force, the retina, the light sensitive portion at the back of the eye, can become detached. If not treated immediately, this may lead to permanent vision loss or blindness. Retinal detachment may occur for a number of reasons including collisions in sports or from the force of a car accident.


    Although they typically occur together, orbital blowout fractures and bleeding in the eye often go hand in hand. An orbital blowout fracture consists of breaks in the bones of face around the eye socket. Such a fracture pushes the eye further back into its socket (the orbit). These fractures are typically from direct trauma such as from being hit in the face by blunt trauma (such as from a ball, fist, bat, or similar objects). Hyphema, blood collecting inside the eye, is caused by the same type of trauma. With this collection of blood, vision may be blocked either partially or completely.

    If you or someone you know experiences any of the above problems, seek emergency help immediately. Do not delay. Chemical injuries, foreign objects, retinal detachment, orbital blowout fractures, and hyphema are true emergencies. Bypass your eye doctor’s office and urgent care, and instead either call 911 or go directly to the nearest emergency department.

    This post only touches on a few of many types of eye emergencies. During your next routine eye exam at Silverstein Eye Centers, discuss your risk of these and other eye emergencies with your doctor. To schedule your next routine eye exam, or to be seen for a non-emergency eye problem, call Silverstein Eye Centers today at 816-358-3600.

    Posted February 20, 2014 by Silverstein Eye Centers
    Skip to content