The eye is a delicate structure that is easily damaged by a small foreign body. If a foreign body scratches or scars the eye surface, the patient may lose some or all vision in the injured eye. Eye protection should always be worn when particles or fluid could enter the eye.

A heavy blow may injure soft issues and bone around the eye. This can result in pressure on the eyeball and cause blurred or double vision, or even blindness.

In a workplace where welding is undertaken a painful flash injury may occur unless personal protective equipment is used correctly.

A chemical splash in the eye can cause permanent loss of vision and needs prompt first aid and medical care.

Symptoms and signs – Not all may be present

  • pain in, or behind, the eye  
  • spasm of the eyelids 
  • a continuous flow of tears from one eye 
  • reduced or altered vision, or even loss of sight 
  • blood visible in the eye, or bleeding around the eye 

Major eye conditions

How you can help

1.    Rest and reassure the patient

  • Tell the patient not to roll their eye. 
  • Help the patient to rest in the position of greatest comfort with the injured eye closed. 
  • If the eye injury is caused by a chemical splash, flush the eye with copious amounts of water. 
  • Advise the patient to avoid all movement of the head to prevent further eye damage. 
  • Reassure the patient.
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2.    Protect the injured eye

  • Cover the injured eye with a clean eye pad or wound dressing. If there is a large foreign body lodged in the eye, DO NOT attempt to remove it, but pad around the eye socket to avoid pressure. 
  • Advise the patient to keep the uninjured eye closed if possible to reduce the risk of movement of the injured eye.
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3.    Arrange for medical care

Call 111 for an ambulance. 

  • Continue to give reassurance and encouragement to the patient.
  • While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, check the patient for any other injuries, particularly if a blow or fall was involved.
  • Check the level of consciousness and ensure that the airway is clear.
  • Remember that an injury around the eye may be associated with a head injury.

Minor eye conditions

How you can help

1.    Removal of a foreign body

  • Tell the patient not to rub the eye.  
  • Check whether the foreign material is visible on the white part of the eye. 
  • Ask the patient to blink several times to try to remove the foreign body by washing it out with tears.

If the object is not removed after several attempts, DO NOT continue because of the risk of scratching the eye surface and causing scarring.

If the foreign object cannot be seen clearly or is over the coloured part of the eye, DO NOT try to remove it.

 2.    If unsuccessful, the foreign body may be removed by gentle flushing of the affected eye

  • Use a clean jug filled with water and pour a stream of fluid across the injured eye and into a bowl or handbasin. Pour the fluid from the mnose end of the eye toward the outer corner to avoid accidentally flushing the uninjured eye. Tilt head to injured side to aid flushing.
  • If unsuccessful, cover the eye with a clean pad and see a doctor.

Snow blindness / welder’s flash

Excessive glare (or bright light from a welder) can damage eyes. The patient may complain of severe pain in the eye(s), with a ‘gritty’ feeling. The eye may be sensitive to light and may be watery and/or red.

How you can help

1.    Bathe the eye with cool water

2.    Cover the affected eye(s) and see a doctor

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