Do I Need Emergency Eye Care?

by | Apr 8, 2020

For almost all of us, the routines of daily life have changed dramatically within the span of just a few weeks. “Non-essential” businesses are temporarily shut down, while people across the state are encouraged to stay home and help contain the spread of COVID-19.

One of those routine changes for us here at Sight Eye Clinic is that, for the time being, our office is only open to patients with urgent or emergency needs. Routine eye exams are being delayed and rescheduled, but sometimes a problem just can’t wait until the end of a lockdown.

That raises an obvious question, though, that some of our patients may be asking themselves: Just what exactly qualifies as an emergency when it comes to eye care? Some urgent needs are obvious, but others might not be. What should you look for?

Eye Pain

The simplest serious warning sign is simply that your eyes hurt.

Eye pain can be very difficult to self-diagnose. In some cases, even very sharp discomfort might turn out to be a relatively minor problem. For example, a superficial scratch to the cornea might hurt a lot at first, but will likely heal in a couple of days.

However, other sources of eye pain can lead to severe, even permanent repercussions if not treated soon. Some examples include glaucoma attacks, foreign objects embedded in your eye, neuropathy, inflammation of the interior of the eye (endophthalmitis), and many others.

Since some causes of eye pain really can permanently destroy your vision, you should always treat any cause of eye pain as an emergency. Seeing us as soon as possible can help save your eyes.

Sudden Changes in Vision

Everyone experiences gradual changes in the quality of their vision over a lifetime. That’s a given.

But if you notice a very sudden or rapid change in how you see the world, it’s often sign of a potentially severe retinal or corneal defect, or an underling problem with your nerves or arteries. Again, it may well be the case that you have only a short period of time to avoid permanent complications.

Please see call us immediately if you experience symptoms such as:

  • Flashing lights
  • Halos
  • Double vision
  • Sudden increase in “floaters”
  • Blurry or cloudy vision
  • A “gray curtain” moving across your field of vision

Red Eyes

Eyes that appear red or bloodshot, especially when accompanied by discharge or if it appears in only one eye, need to be evaluated and dealt with as quickly as possible.

Again, it could be the case that you’re only dealing with minor irritants, like dry air and dust (possibly from staying at home all day) or a reaction to a certain brand of eyedrops.

However, much more serious problems are possible, including severe bacterial or viral infection, inflammation, or even corneal ulcers.

Call us right away if your red eyes are associated with pain, vision changes, discharge, or last longer than 1 week.

Your Pupils Are Different Sizes

Although some causes of different pupil sizes may be temporary, many very serious problems can cause this symptom. They include:

  • Inflammation of the optic nerve
  • Brain tumor
  • Aneurysm
  • Meningitis
  • Bleeding in your skull
  • Direct trauma

Again, better safe than sorry. Call us immediately if you notice your pupils are different sizes and you aren’t aware of any specific head or neck injury you might have recently experienced. If you have had a head injury in the recent past, call 911 instead.

Other Emergency Eye Problems

A few other examples of eye emergencies include:

  • Obvious trauma (chemical burns, eye puncture, etc.)
  • One eye is “stuck” and isn’t moving like the other
  • Bulging eyes
  • Sudden sensitivity to light
  • Burning, stinging, or itching sensations
  • Bleeding from the eyes
  • Discharge from the eyes

What to Do if You Injure Your Eye

If you get a small foreign particle stuck in your eyes, never attempt to rub or put pressure on them. You can try blinking a few times, using artificial tears, and flushing with cool water. Always wash your hands before touching your eyes. If you can’t remove the object on your own using these methods, call us.

If you suffer a chemical burn (such as getting acid in your eye), wash your hands, tilt your head down and to the side, keep your eye open, and flush with cool water for 15 minutes. Then come see us as quickly as possible.

Trust Your Instincts

You only have one set of eyes. Far too often, we see patients who end up losing a substantial percentage of their vision because they waited too long to deal with glaucoma, inflammation, or other serious eye problems that could have responded well to earlier treatment.

While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly is a good reason to try to stay inside and avoid unnecessary interpersonal contact as much as possible, we don’t want you to put your vision and long-term eye health in jeopardy, either.

Sight Eye Clinic is open to emergency and urgent appointments, so if you notice any of the above symptoms or just don’t feel right about your eyes, please give us a call and we will be happy to help you.