Eye Injuries Overview
Eye injuries can range from the very minor, such as getting soap in one's eye, to the catastrophic, resulting in permanent loss of vision or loss of the eye. These types of injuries often occur in the workplace, at home, from other accidents, or while participating in sports.
What Are Causes of Eye Injuries?
- Chemical exposures and burns: A chemical burn can occur in a number of ways but is most often the result of a liquid splashing into the eye. Many chemicals, such as soap, sunscreen, and even tear gas, are merely irritants to the eye and do not usually cause permanent damage. However, strong acids and alkalis are highly caustic and may cause severe and permanent damage to the ocular surface.
- Acids (such as sulfuric acid found in car batteries) or alkaline substances (such as lye found in drain cleaner and ammonia) can splash into the eyes.
- Rubbing the eye when working with chemicals may transfer substances from the skin on the hands to the eye.
- Aerosol exposure is another method of potential chemical injury and includes such substances as Mace, tear gas, pepper spray, or hairspray.
- Subconjunctival hemorrhage (bleeding): This is a collection of blood lying on the surface of the white of the eye (sclera). The sclera is covered by the conjunctiva, which is the transparent blood vessel containing membrane that lies over the sclera. Subconjunctival hemorrhage may accompany any eye injury. It may also be spontaneous. The degree of subconjunctival hemorrhage is not necessarily related to the severity of the injury.
- Corneal abrasions: The cornea is the transparent tissue that is located in front of the pupil and iris. A corneal abrasion is a scratch or a traumatic defect in the surface of the cornea. People with corneal abrasions often report that they were "poked" in the eye by a toy, a metallic object, a toddler's fingernail, or a tree branch or that they wore their contact lens too long.
- Traumatic iritis: This type of injury can occur in the same way as a corneal abrasion but is more often a result of a blunt blow to the eye, such as from a fist, a club, or an air bag in a car. The iris is the colored part of the eye. It contains muscles that control the amount of light that enters the eye through the pupil. Iritis simply means that the iris is inflamed.
- Hyphemas and orbital blowout fractures: These injuries are associated with significant force from a blunt object to the eye and surrounding structures. Examples would be getting hit in the face with a baseball or fist, getting kicked in the face, or being struck in the eye by a racquetball, squash ball, champagne cork, or some similar object.
- Hyphemas are the result of bleeding in the eye that occurs in the front part of the eye, called the anterior chamber. This is the space between the cornea and the iris. The anterior chamber is normally filled with clear fluid, called the aqueous fluid.
- Orbital fractures are breaks of the facial bones surrounding the eye. An orbital blowout fracture is a break in the thin bone that forms the floor of the orbit and supports the eye (orbital floor fracture).
- Lacerations (cuts) to the eyelids or conjunctiva (the clear covering over the white of the eye): These injuries commonly occur from sharp objects but can also occur from a fall.
- Lacerations to the cornea and the sclera: These injuries are potentially very serious and are frequently associated with trauma from sharp objects made of metal or glass.
- Foreign bodies in the eye: Generally, a foreign body is a small piece of metal, wood, or plastic.
- Corneal foreign bodies are embedded in the cornea and, by definition, have not penetrated the eye itself. Iron containing metal foreign bodies in the cornea can cause a rusty stain in the cornea, which also requires treatment.
- Intraorbital foreign bodies are located in the orbit (or eye socket) but have not penetrated the eye.
- Intraocular foreign bodies are injuries in which the outer wall of the eye has been penetrated by the object, which is now lodged within the eye itself.
- Ultraviolet keratitis (or corneal flash burn): The most common light-induced trauma to the eye is ultraviolet keratitis, which can be thought of as a sunburn of the cornea. Common sources of damaging ultraviolet (UV) light are welding arcs, tanning booths, and sunlight reflected by snow, water, or other reflective surfaces, especially at higher altitudes where UV rays are more intense.
- Solar retinopathy: Damage to the central part of the retina can occur by staring at the sun. Common situations that may cause this are viewing solar eclipses or drug-induced states where the person looks at the sun for an extended period of time.
Last Reviewed 11/20/2017
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