Skip to main content

Eye emergencies are high-stress moments for anyone, regardless of whether you’re the one in need of immediate eye care. However, in the panic of the moment, it’s sometimes very difficult to figure out what’s really “an emergency” and what can wait until later.

Despite the confusion, it’s important to know what merits a trip to a hospital emergency room (ER). This is especially true with public health protocols due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s Considered Emergency Eye Care?

Eye emergencies are any abrupt problems with the eye or changes in vision. These ocular or visual health problems or changes could arise with or without an easily identifiable cause.

Events like eye trauma and chemical injury are easy examples of clear cause. However, sudden vision loss, red eye and flashing lights in your visual field have no easily identifiable cause. Vision deterioration in this second group isn’t always the result of something wrong with your eyes.

Factors like these could point to more severe physiological issues. For such reasons, you should go to the ER.

Emergencies for Eye Doctors

Optometrists are not usually the first line of defense for urgent, emergency eye care. We equip our offices to examine, diagnose, treat and manage eye diseases and disorders, which are a bit slower moving than a sudden eye injury.

Additionally, eye care emergencies may have complications that might require medical specialists unrelated to examining your eye’s condition, like surgeons or neurologists. To speed the first aid process, an ER visit is the simplest answer to minimize your chances of long-term eye or vision injury.

What Should I Go to the ER For?

If you experience any of the following, visit a hospital ER:

  • Eye burns from chemical exposure
  • Retinal detachment from trauma
  • Foreign object stuck in eye
  • Vision loss or double vision
  • Scratches on cornea from dirt, metal or wood shavings or contact lenses
  • Sudden fluid discharge from eye (e.g., blood, mucus)
  • Eye bulging from socket
  • Pink eye discharge (e.g., clear watery fluid, yellow-green fluid, red eyes)
  • Severe light sensitivity

Sudden, acute pain is very different from severe discomfort. It’s important to identify with either yourself or your loved one what requires an unavoidable trip to the ER.

Infections like pink eye can be either viral or bacterial, with varying transmission levels. Although an optometrist can prescribe eye drops to treat conjunctivitis (pink eye), waiting on an appointment means you could spread it to others.

Optometrist Emergency Care

If you do visit us for an emergency, the Custom Eyes team’s first goal is to eliminate or mitigate any immediate threat to your eye or your vision. As we administer first aid to your eye, we also try to treat the acute pain or injury (if possible).

If we can completely resolve the immediate threat of your eye emergency situation, we refer you to other specialists or set up an appointment to follow up on the healing process.