It's common for a speck of dirt to get blown
into your eye, for soap to wash into your eye, or for you to accidentally bump
your eye. For these types of minor eye injuries, home treatment is usually all
that is needed.
Some sports and recreational
activities increase the risk of eye injuries.
Very high-risk sports include boxing, wrestling,
and martial arts.
High-risk sports include baseball, football,
tennis, fencing, and squash.
Low-risk sports include swimming and
gymnastics (no body contact or use of a ball, bat, or racquet).
Blows to the eye
Direct blows to the eye can damage
the skin and other tissues around the eye, the eyeball, or the bones of the eye
socket. Blows to the eye often cause bruising around the eye (black eye) or
cuts to the eyelid. If a blow to the eye or a
cut to the eyelid occurred during an accident, be sure to check for injuries to
the eyeball itself and for other injuries, especially to the head or face.
Concern about an eye injury may cause you to miss other injuries that need
Burns to the eye
Burns to the eye may be caused by
chemicals, fumes, hot air or steam, sunlight, tanning lamps, electric hair
curlers or dryers, or welding equipment. Bursts of flames or flash fires from
stoves or explosives can also burn the face and eyes.
Chemical burns can occur if a solid chemical,
liquid chemical, or chemical fumes get into the eye. Many substances will not
cause damage if they are flushed out of the eye quickly.
Acids (such as bleach or battery acid) and
alkali substances (such as oven cleansers or fertilizers) can damage the eye. It may take 24
hours after the burn to determine the seriousness of an eye burn. Chemical
fumes and vapors can also irritate the eyes.
Flash burns to the cornea can occur from a source of radiation like the sun or lights. Bright sunlight
(especially when the sun is reflecting off snow or water) can burn your eyes if
you don't wear sunglasses that filter out ultraviolet (UV) light. Eyes that
are not protected by a mask can be burned by exposure to the high-intensity
light of a welder's equipment (torch or arc). The eyes also may be injured by
other bright lights, such as from tanning booths or sunlamps.
A foreign object in the
eye, such as dirt, an eyelash, a contact lens, or makeup, can cause eye
Objects may scratch the surface of the eye
(cornea) or become stuck on the eye. If the
cornea is scratched, it can be hard to tell whether
the object has been removed, because a scratched cornea may feel painful and as
though something is still in the eye. Most corneal scratches are minor and heal
on their own in 1 or 2 days.
Small or sharp objects traveling at
high speeds can cause serious injury to many parts of the eyeball. Objects
flying from a lawn mower, grinding wheel, or any tool may strike the eye and
possibly puncture the eyeball. Injury may cause bleeding between the iris and
cornea (hyphema), a
change in the size or shape of the pupil, or damage to
the structures inside the eyeball. These objects may be deep in the eye and may
require medical treatment.
In the case of a car air bag inflating, all three types
of eye injuries can occur. The force of impact can cause a blow to the eye,
foreign objects may enter the eye, and chemicals in the air bag can burn the
Eye injuries can be prevented by using protective eyewear.
Wear safety glasses, goggles, or face shields when working with power tools
or chemicals or when doing any activity that might cause an object or substance to
get into your eyes. Some professions, such as health care and construction, may
require workers to use protective eyewear to reduce the risk of foreign objects
or substances or body fluids getting in the eyes.
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Severe pain (8 to 10): The
pain is so bad that the baby cannot sleep, cannot get comfortable, and cries
constantly no matter what you do. The baby may kick, make fists, or
Moderate pain (5 to 7): The baby is
very fussy, clings to you a lot, and may have trouble sleeping but responds
when you try to comfort him or her.
Mild pain (1 to 4): The baby is a little fussy and clings to you a little but responds
when you try to comfort him or her.
Burns to the Eye
Pain in adults and older children
Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain
is so bad that you can't stand it for more than a few hours, can't sleep, and
can't do anything else except focus on the pain.
Moderate pain (5 to 7): The pain is bad enough to disrupt your
normal activities and your sleep, but you can tolerate it for hours or days.
Moderate can also mean pain that comes and goes even if it's severe when it's
Mild pain (1 to 4): You notice the pain,
but it is not bad enough to disrupt your sleep or activities.
Make an Appointment
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical
Make an appointment to see your doctor in the
next 1 to 2 weeks.
If appropriate, try home treatment while you
are waiting for the appointment.
If symptoms get worse or you have
any concerns, call your doctor. You may need care sooner.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and
illness. Some examples in adults are:
Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease,
Long-term alcohol and drug
Steroid medicines, which may be used to treat a variety
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for
Other medicines used to treat autoimmune
Medicines taken after organ transplant.
having a spleen.
There are a couple of ways to safely remove an object from the eye.
Do not try to remove:
Any object made of metal.
that has punctured the eye.
To remove a nonmetal object that is on
the surface of the eye or inside the eyelid:
Wash your hands before you touch the
Try to gently flush out the object with water.
the object is on the white part of the eye or inside the lower lid, wet a
cotton swab or the tip of a twisted piece of tissue and touch the end to the
object. The object should cling to the swab or tissue.
Do not use tweezers, toothpicks, or other hard items to remove an
Most minor eye injuries can be
treated at home.
If you have a cut on your eyelid, apply a sterile
bandage or cloth to protect the area. If you don't have a sterile bandage, use
a clean cloth. Do not use fluffy cotton bandages around the eye. They could tear
apart and get stuck in the eye. Keep the bandage clean and dry.
reduce swelling around the eye, apply
ice or cold packs for 15 minutes 3 or 4 times a day during the first 48
hours after the injury. The sooner you apply a cold pack, the less swelling you
are likely to have. Place a cloth between the ice and your skin. After the
swelling goes down, warm compresses may help relieve pain.
use chemical cooling packs on or near the eye. If the pack leaks, the chemicals
could cause more eye damage. Do not use a piece of raw meat on an injured
If your eye symptoms are not completely gone after 24 hours of
home treatment, see your doctor.
Eye injury in a child
Applying first aid measures for
an eye injury in a child may be difficult, depending on the child's age, size,
and ability to cooperate. Having another adult help you treat the child is
helpful. Stay calm and talk in a soothing voice. Use slow, gentle movements to
help the child remain calm and cooperative. A struggling child may need to be
held strongly so that first aid can be started and the seriousness of the eye
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription
medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
Aspirin (also a nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drug), such as Bayer or Bufferin
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Be sure to follow these
safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
Carefully read and follow all directions
on the medicine bottle and box.
safety glasses, goggles, or face shields when you
hammer nails or metal, work with power tools or chemicals, or do any activity
that might cause a burn to your eyes. If you work with hazardous chemicals that
could splash into your eyes, know how to flush chemicals out, and know the
location of the nearest shower or sink.
If you are welding or are near
someone else who is welding, wear a mask or goggles designed for welding.
Wear protective eyewear during sports such as hockey, racquetball,
or paintball that involve the risk of a blow to the eye. Baseball is the most
common sport to cause eye injuries. Fishhook injuries are another common cause
of eye injuries. Protective eyewear can prevent sports-related eye injuries
more than 90% of the time. An eye examination may be helpful in determining
what type of protective eyewear is needed.
ultraviolet (UV) light can be prevented by wearing
sunglasses that block ultraviolet (UV) rays and by wearing broad-brimmed hats.
Be aware that the eye can be injured from sun glare during boating, sunbathing,
or skiing. Use eye protection while you are under tanning lamps or using
tanning booths. Laser pointers have not been shown to cause eye
Eye injuries are common
in children, and many can be prevented. Most eye injuries happen in older
children. They happen more often in boys than in girls. Toys—from crayons to
toy guns—are a major source of injury, so check all toys for sharp or pointed
parts. Household items, such as elastic cords, can also strike the eye and
Teach your children about eye safety.
Be a good role model—always wear proper eye
Get protective eyewear for your children, and help them
use it properly.
Teach children that flying toys should never be
pointed at another person.
Teach children how to carry sharp or
pointed objects properly.
Teach children that any kind of missile,
projectile, or BB gun is not a toy.
Use safety measures near fires
and explosives, such as campfires and fireworks.
Any eye injury that appears unusual for a child's age should
be evaluated as possible child
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.