Andrew A. Dahl, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Dahl's educational background includes a BA with Honors and Distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and an MD from Cornell University, where he was selected for Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. He had an internal medical internship at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
Self-care at home, in many instances, consists of emergent treatment before or during transport to a medical facility.
Chemical exposures: The single most important thing to do for chemical exposures is to perform first aid by immediately washing out the eye with great amounts of water. Although saline solution is best, regular tap water is a perfectly acceptable alternative. Particularly, for more serious burning materials, such as acid or alkali, time is of the essence. The affected eye should be washed for 20 minutes or more. It is important that people keep their eyelids open during the irrigation process.
How to wash out the eye: How it is done is less important than getting it done with great amounts of water.
A water fountain makes a great eye wash. Just lean over the fountain, turn on the water, and keep the exposed eye open.
At a sink, stand over the sink, cup your hands,
and put your face into the running water.
If a person is near a shower, they should get in and put the exposed eye under the running water. This is a good option if a person has been sprayed with a chemical in the face and hair.
Hold a glass of water firmly against the orbital bones with the eye open and then tip the head back. Do this many times.
If a patient is working outside, a garden hose running at a very modest flow will work to flush the eye.
Subconjunctival hemorrhage: Minimal treatment is needed, if unaccompanied by any other eye injury. Avoid further trauma to the eye, such as rubbing. This injury will heal with time.
Corneal abrasions: Little can be done at home for corneal abrasions. People who wear contact lenses should avoid using their lenses if they get corneal abrasions until evaluated by an ophthalmologist. Such people should seek medical care promptly.
Traumatic iritis: Some people become very light sensitive, and sunglasses may help until treatment is begun.
Hyphema: Keep the head elevated. Do not lie flat. Keep quiet with minimal activity until seen by an ophthalmologist. Do not take aspirin for any pain, because this will increase the risk of bleeding. Seek medical care promptly.
Orbital blowout fractures: Keep the head elevated, and apply ice to the face to reduce swelling. Do not take aspirin for any pain, because this will increase the risk of bleeding.
Lid lacerations: Seek immediate medical care. Do not attempt to put anything directly on the eyeball. Do not take aspirin for any pain, because this will increase the risk of bleeding.
Lacerations to the eyeball: Protect the eye, but do not put any pressure on the eye to avoid further injury. Seek immediate medical attention.
Foreign bodies: Gentle flushing with water will often dislodge foreign bodies that have not embedded themselves in the cornea. Do not try to rub or wipe off foreign bodies with a tissue, a Q-tip, or anything else. Doing so will usually not remove an embedded foreign object and will result in a corneal abrasion that may be more painful than the foreign body itself. Intraocular and intraorbital foreign bodies cannot be treated at home.