Emergency eye care

What is emergency eye care?

Emergency eye care is 24-hour access for individuals who have sustained trauma to the eye or who have severe eye pain, sudden loss of vision and other eye-related injuries. The goal is to obtain immediate treatment.
 

A photo of an eye.

What counts as an eye emergency?

The following are considered an emergency:

  • Retinal detachment - where the retina peels away from the supporting tissues, which may cause permanent vision loss.
  • Corneal abrasions - an eye injury where a scratch occurs on the cornea. It can cause pain, blurring and vision loss.
  • Orbital bone fractures - the eye socket (orbit) protects the eye, however, with sudden force from a fall, car accident or sports injury, it might result in a fracture, which can lead to vision loss or double vision.
  • Eyelid lacerations - special surgery may be needed to treat the cut, depending on the depth of the injury.
  • Foreign objects in the eye - in some cases, an object embedded in the eye may cause nerve damage or vision loss.
  • Traumatic iritis - a type of uveitis as a result of inflammation of the iris, which can be caused a blunt trauma, such as being poked in the eye.
  • Chemicals in the eye - chemicals on the eye can cause irreversible vision loss.
     

What are the symptoms of an eye emergency?

Depending on the individual cause or circumstance, the following are often signs that you might need emergency eye care:

  • Vision loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Bleeding
  • Red, painful, swollen eyes
  • Flashes of light, black spots or floaters.
     

What is the procedure at an emergency eye clinic?

If you have an eye emergency, you will not need a scheduled appointment. It is best to call ahead for further instruction on what to do, by the clinic. During the consultation, the eye specialist will:

  • Medically examine and check the symptoms of your eyes
  • Take your medical history
  • Request an eye examination
  • Recommend the best treatment that can be applied as soon as possible (which depends on your age, history, cause, doctor availability and the facilities)


After the immediate risks have been addressed, the doctor will conduct a more thorough investigation and will make an official diagnosis. Depending on the severity of the diagnosis, you may have to stay in hospital overnight, for a few days, or be discharged then and there.
 

What happens if my eye problem is not urgent?

Not all types of eye emergencies require urgent hospitalisation or surgery. If symptoms of an eye problem have been present for more than two weeks, you should visit your GP who will refer you to an ophthalmologist in an eye unit.

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