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Eye Injuries (cont.)

What Specialists Treat Eye Injuries?

Minor eye injuries can be cared for by your family doctor or by emergency-room doctors. For more serious eye injuries or if there are any questions regarding even the most trivial-appearing injury, an ophthalmologist should be consulted. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who has specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of eye disease. Some patients may need to consult a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon.

When Should Someone Seek Medical Care for an Eye Injury?

In most cases, if a person has continuing symptoms of pain, visual disturbance, abnormal appearance of the eye or bleeding, they should go to an emergency medicine physician at an emergency department or see an ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in eye care and eye surgery) if an ophthalmologist is readily available. A diagnosis and treatment plan should not be delayed due to searching for an on-call or available ophthalmologist. After initial treatment, discussion with and/or follow-up with an ophthalmologist is often advised.

In general, if a person is not sure if they have a serious eye injury, they should call an ophthalmologist or see an emergency-medicine doctor, preferably at a large hospital that has an ophthalmologist on call, for advice and/or treatment. In the event of eye injury to children, especially infants or toddlers, an examination should be performed emergently.

An ophthalmologist may be helpful in the following circumstances:

  • Chemical exposures: If people are not sure if the exposure is potentially serious, they have washed out their eye (preferably at an eye-wash station if they are at work), and if they continue to have symptoms, then the ophthalmologist may be able to help them decide whether or not they should be seen immediately.
  • Subconjunctival hemorrhage: If individuals are not sure that they have this condition, an ophthalmologist may be able to help with the diagnosis. This condition, by itself, does not require immediate medical attention.

Continuing pain and decreased vision after an eye injury can be warning signs that require prompt medical attention. If the person has an ophthalmologist, he or she may be able to take care of the patient in their office. Otherwise, they should go to a hospital's emergency department, preferably one in a large hospital where an ophthalmologist is probably on call.

The following conditions should be seen promptly by an ophthalmologist or in the emergency department:

  • Chemical exposures: If the substance was known to be caustic, immediate medical evaluation by either an ophthalmologist or in the emergency department is needed, regardless of symptoms. Acids and alkalis are the worst and require immediate attention. If the substance is not dangerous, such as soap or suntan lotion, a visit to the emergency department is not necessary, but a visit to the ophthalmologist's office may be helpful to alleviate any remaining symptoms. When in doubt, seek medical attention.
  • Lacerations: Cuts that affect the eyelid margins (where the eyelashes are) or the eyeball itself need immediate medical attention.
  • Foreign bodies that are not removed with gentle washing should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist; some foreign bodies can be removed in an emergency department or urgent-care center but should be followed up by an ophthalmologist office visit.
  • Solar retinopathy: Evaluation by an ophthalmologist is necessary. This is one condition where there is little that can be done in the emergency department.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/22/2016

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