Eye Infections & Emergencies

Eye emergencies can be caused by trauma, chemical exposure, burns, infections, or an acute progression of a known or undiagnosed disease. They require prompt specialist treatment to limit any damage to the anatomy of the eye and potential vision deterioration or loss.

Before Treatment

Abnormalities in the eye such as swelling, redness, or pain.

After Treatment

Full or partial resolution depending on the incident.

Some of the most common eye emergencies include:

  • Eye Trauma: Any injury to the eye can potentially threaten vision. Such incidences range from a mild corneal scratch to puncture wounds or a foreign object within the eye, through to serious trauma that causes extreme disruption to the tissues of and around the eye
  • Chemical exposure: This might be in the form of liquids, gases, fumes, or aerosols. No matter what the substance, prompt decontamination is required
  • Burns: Any burns to the eyes or face warrants immediate attention. Burns can be caused by direct heat, scalding water, hot oil, or other hot substances.
  • Retinal detachment: While this can happen gradually, a sudden retinal detachment is an acute emergency. It occurs when the retina pulls away from the interior surface within the eye, causing symptoms that include flashes of light or the sudden appearance of floaters. You might also experience a shadow or curtain that intrudes from the outside of the eye towards the center
  • Acute glaucoma: This is when the pressure within the eye rises suddenly, reducing blood flow and compressing the optic nerve. Symptoms can be severe and include pain, redness, nausea and vomiting, and visual disturbances.
  • Retinal artery or vein occlusion: Caused when the blood vessels within the eye become blocked. While often painless, it leads to a sudden loss of vision.

No matter what the cause, any sudden changes in vision, severe eye pain, trauma, or swelling warrants immediate care from an emergency eye doctor.

How Do I Know if I Need an Emergency Eye Doctor Near Me?

Any sudden, severe problems that affect one or both eyes should be considered an emergency. Eye or eyelid injuries will require prompt attention, as do any sudden changes to your vision or acute onset of pain. Those who suffer from various medical conditions, such as diabetes, should be hypervigilant as to any abrupt changes to the function of the eye, seeking out emergency attention if such an incident occurs.
Symptoms that warrant emergency eye care include:

  • Trauma to the eye—burns, penetrating injuries, cuts, scratches, objects within the eye
  • Chemical exposure 
  • Sudden vision changes, such as partial or total loss of vision, blurred vision, double vision, intense photophobia (sensitivity to light), changes to central or peripheral vision
  • Intense pain
  • Severe swelling and/or reddening of the white area of the eye
  • Not being able to open one or both eyes

If you don’t have a regular eye doctor, the easiest method to find a local solution is to enter “emergency eye care near me” into a search engine. This will bring up a list of eye doctors in the vicinity. Failing this, you should immediately visit the nearest emergency room.

What Happens During Emergency Eye Care?

Any emergency eye care needed will be determined by the reason behind the problem. Treatment for trauma depends on the extent of the injury. For instance, a small foreign object that’s caused a small scratch or abrasion to the cornea will need to be flushed out. A dressing or eye patch  will probably be applied, and you’ll need to wear it  for a few days while the injury heals. You may also be given eye drops to target any bacteria or fungus that might have been introduced to the eye.

Severe trauma can warrant a variety of treatments, ranging from stitches through to surgery if the situation demands it. Treatments for burns and chemical incidences will also be dependent on the severity of the injury. Eye emergencies, such as retinal detachment and acute glaucoma, often require surgical intervention. Following various diagnostic tests, this might include one of a variety of treatments, including laser surgery. The key point is that an eye specialist—known as an ophthalmologist—promptly assesses the exact cause of the emergency. Once this initial step is taken, appropriate emergency treatment can be instigated to prevent further damage to the function of the eye.

What is emergency eye care?

Eye emergencies include cuts, scratches, objects in the eye, chemical exposure, and injuries. Some infections and other medical conditions may also need immediate medical care.

What are the symptoms?

Seek medical attention if you ever experience swelling, redness, or pain in your eyes.

How is it treated?

Depending on the emergency, our doctors will evaluate what type of treatment you will need.

What Makes an Emergency Eye Clinic Great?

The best emergency eye clinic is one that can deal with every type of eye emergency on-site. This means having highly experienced clinicians who can carry out any necessary surgical procedures. In addition, the best facilities will have advanced diagnostic equipment, meaning all necessary tests can be carried out without delay.

While many people have a relationship with an eye clinic through regular eye checks and perhaps monitoring for various conditions (diabetics, those with cataracts, glaucoma, etc.), some aren’t registered with such a clinical resource. Should a sight-related incident occur, it will be necessary to seek out emergency eye care. Boca Raton residents are fortunate to have an academic grade facility on their doorstep—the West Boca Eye Center. Led by renowned ophthalmologist, Brent Bellotte MD., patients benefit from a single location where every aspect of eye care is afforded—from regular eye exams through to emergency treatment and surgery.

Where to go for an eye emergency?

Eye emergencies warrant immediate attention from an experienced eye doctor. Whether the condition is caused by trauma or disease, the appropriate prompt attention will ensure the best possible outcome.

In an emergency you should, if the situation allows, contact your regular eye care clinician for advice and treatment. If this isn’t possible, visit the emergency room at the closest hospital without delay. For an incident, such as severe penetrating trauma, burns, or a chemical incident, that might also present a risk to life, call 911.

When is eye pain an emergency?

Any eye pain of a sudden or severe nature is considered an emergency and warrants immediate assessment. This might or might not be combined with one or more of the following:

  • Vision loss—either partial or total, occurring in one or both eyes
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • A headache
  • Swelling of the eye or surrounding tissues
  • Other visual changes, including the appearance of flashes, floaters, blurring, double vision, etc.
  • Suddenly seeing halos or rainbows around lights
  • Photophobia (sensitivity to light)

What is considered an eye emergency?

An eye emergency is anything that causes a sudden alteration to the structure or function of the eye. It can be caused by a variety of reasons:

  • Trauma to the eye: This can range from a scratch to the cornea from a foreign object (for example, a thorn or piece of grit) through to penetrating trauma where something large becomes embedded in the eye. Blunt trauma can also be a medical emergency, such as being hit in the eye by a racquet or ball when playing sport.
  • Sudden visual changes: Including full or partial loss of sight, loss of peripheral vision, loss of central vision, a “curtain” descending from the side or top of the eye.
  • Sudden visual disturbances: The abrupt appearance of flashing lights or floaters, blurred vision, double vision, and photophobia all require emergency assessment
  • Swelling and/or redness: Severe swelling or redness of the eye warrants immediate emergency attention

Sudden onset of severe pain: This may or may not be accompanied by other symptoms, such as a headache, nausea or vomiting, and visual disturbances.

Are eye flashes an emergency?

While occasional eye flashes can be normal for many, the sudden appearance of these is an eye emergency. It’s a common symptom of a sudden retinal detachment—a serious condition where the retina (the part of the eye that transforms light coming into the eye into signals that are passed to the brain) pulls away from its usual position at the back of the eye.

Retinal detachment can be partial or complete and, if not treated promptly, can cause permanent vision loss. Eye flashes caused by retinal detachment are often accompanied by the appearance of a shadow or curtain protruding in from your peripheral vision.

This is not the only cause of eye flashes. Some people who suffer migraines also get them during an attack. However, any sudden onset of eye flashes that’s not normal for you should be immediately assessed by an emergency eye doctor.

Where to go for 24 hour emergency eye care near me?

Many specialist eye clinics offer 24 hour emergency eye care. An online search will quickly bring up locations near to where you are. If you can’t find such a clinic then there’s always an emergency eye care doctor-on-call through the emergency room at your closest hospital.

For anyone who requires regular monitoring for conditions like diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma, then your ophthalmologist should tell you what action to take should an eye emergency occur. If their facility offers 24 hour emergency eye care then the preferable course of action would be to visit them, as the clinician will be aware of your medical history and the progression of the disease.

When is emergency eye surgery needed?

Emergency eye surgery might be needed in a variety of situations. This will depend on the cause and the severity of the situation. Surgical solutions might be necessary for some of the following situations:

  • Trauma: Any incident that affects the structure of the eye or surrounding tissues might warrant surgery. Major trauma, where the integrity of the eye, socket, and tissues are damaged might require treatment from several different clinicians. This could include an eye surgeon and maxillofacial expert. Other traumatic injuries, such as a puncture wound in or around the eye will need attention from an ophthalmologist experienced in treating such injuries
  • Retinal detachment: Immediate surgery might be needed to prevent any worsening of the condition. In some cases, especially if the condition has progressed dramatically, initial treatment might be instigated and then further carried out a few days later. Your eye emergency doctor will carry out various diagnostic tests to determine the best course of action to preserve vision as much as possible.
  • Acute glaucoma: This eye emergency is where pressure within the eye rises suddenly. It’s usually accompanied by pain, visual changes, nausea, and vomiting. The initial treatment will be to lower the pressure within the eye.
  • Retinal artery or vein occlusion: This is when the blood vessels within the eye become blocked. It’s a sight-threatening emergency and, while there is no cure, can be treated with injections or laser therapy

The key to all eye emergencies is that it’s essential to seek clinical help as soon as possible. This can be through your ophthalmologist (if you have one), a 24 hour emergency eye clinic, or at the emergency room at your nearest hospital.