EPSAA and COS statement on eye emergencies
Statement by the Eye Physicians and Surgeons Association of Alberta (EPSAA) and the Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS) regarding Eye Emergencies
March 21, 2018
The Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (EPSAA) and the Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS) would like to provide clarity to Albertans regarding how to respond to an eye emergency. Recent media coverage has suggested that people suffering from an eye emergency do not need to go to a hospital to receive care. A serious eye injury is not always immediately obvious. Delaying medical attention can cause the damaged areas to worsen and could result in permanent vision loss or blindness.
As the medical and surgical leaders in eye health, EPSAA and COS want to emphasize that anyone who is experiencing an eye emergency seek immediate care at a hospital from an ophthalmologist, even if the injury seems minor at first.
Because eye injuries can cause serious vision loss, it’s important to be able to recognize an injury and appropriately respond to it. If you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone else, get medical help right away:
- The person has obvious pain or trouble seeing.
- The person has a cut or torn eyelid.
- One eye does not move as well as the other.
- One eye sticks out compared to the other.
- The eye has an unusual pupil size or shape.
- There is blood in the clear part of the eye.
- The person has something in the eye or under the eyelid that can’t be easily removed.
For all eye injuries:
- DO NOT touch, rub or apply pressure to the eye.
- DO NOT try to remove the object stuck in the eye.
- Do not apply ointment or medication to the eye.
- See a medical doctor as soon as possible, preferably an ophthalmologist.
If your eye has been cut or punctured:
- Gently place a shield over the eye. The bottom of a paper cup taped to the bones surrounding the eye can serve as a shield until you get medical attention.
- DO NOT rinse with water.
- DO NOT remove the object stuck in eye.
- DO NOT rub or apply pressure to eye.
- Avoid giving aspirin, ibuprofen or other non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs thin the blood and may increase bleeding.
- After you have finished protecting the eye, seek emergency medical treatment at the hospital right away.
If you get a particle or foreign material in your eye:
- DO NOT rub the eye.
- Lift the upper eyelid over the lashes of your lower lid.
- Blink several times and allow tears to flush out the particle.
- If the particle remains, keep your eye closed and seek emergency medical treatment at the hospital right away.
In case of a chemical burn to the eye:
- Immediately flush the eye with plenty of clean water.
- Seek emergency medical treatment at the hospital right away.
To treat a blow to the eye:
- Gently apply a small cold compress to reduce pain and swelling.
- DO NOT apply any pressure.
- If a black eye, pain or visual disturbance occurs even after a light blow, seek emergency medical treatment at the hospital right away.
- Remember that even a light blow can cause a significant eye injury.
To treat sand or small debris in the eye:
- Use eyewash to flush the eye out.
- DO NOT rub the eye.
- If the debris doesn’t come out, lightly bandage the eye and seek emergency medical treatment at the hospital.
If you need health information and/or advice on how to link to proper medical care, Albertans can call Health Link 24/7 by dialing 811 or visit www.MyHealth.Alberta.ca. Health Link can also be accessed through the Canada-wide toll-free number, 1-866-408-5465.