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How to Respond to an Eye Injury

If you suffer a serious eye injury, what you don't do immediately afterward may help more than what you do.

The main error of first aid to the eye is poking around when you don't know what you're doing. There's very little that an inexperienced person can do without causing trouble -except in the case of a chemical burn.

For any eye injury, a knowledgeable approach can mean the difference between temporary or permanent injury.

Cuts

A cut on the eye is not uncommon among workers who strike metal on metal, or otherwise work with fast-moving particles and who neglect to wear safety glasses or other appropriate eye protection. You can get such an injury just by using a lawn trimmer or by running into a sharp twig.

Even if the cut causes a lot of bleeding, there's little anyone can do except to tape a dressing loosely over the eye to absorb the blood. When there's not much bleeding, a dressing may not be essential if the person is cooperative and won't touch their eye. Keep the person calm and transport him or her to a hospital emergency room or an eye-care professional.

A cut on the white of the eye may appear as a dark spot. A well-meaning person may mistake it for a superficial foreign object and try to remove it--causing permanent injury.

It's also harmful for the patient to squeeze the eye tightly shut. Normal pressure in the eye is 10 to 21 millimeters of mercury. A forced squeeze can easily raise that pressure to 40 or 50. The retina or lens can be pressured out as could other components.

Blows

A significant blow to the eye calls for immediate professional treatment, even if there are no immediate symptoms. Get the person to an eye doctor who specializes in eye injuries.

Damage from a blow to the eye from a baseball, elbow, or any other blunt object can be worse than it first appears. Research in children found that the diagnosis of blindness in children, on average, is three years after the injury. The child may experience a black eye but no other immediate symptoms. But painless, slow loss of vision can occur, as in the case of glaucoma or retinal detachment.

Chemicals

A chemical in the eye is extremely serious and demands immediate response. Immediately dilute the chemical by rinsing the eye for 15 minutes with tap water, making sure the eye remains wide open while rinsing. Then, seek professional medical care.

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