March 01, 2021

Eye emergencies

Trouble in a blink

When a sudden, vision-threatening eye problem or injury strikes, don't panic. Rather, use the specific plan-of-action in this article to know how to protect your eyes and when to seek immediate care.

Eye emergency

One minute, you're ticking through the day's to-do list. The next, a burst of black dots appears in your field of vision, and your vision starts to blur at the edges. Panic sets in.

Eye emergencies can be traumatic. Many involve injury from an accident: you're popping a champagne bottle, for example, or the grandkids get a hold of a bottle of cleaning solution. Others are the result of long-term developments related to internal diseases.

Many eye injuries can be prevented. Simple and commonsense protective measures — such as wearing eye protection — will minimize your risk. If an emergency does happen, knowing how to respond can make a big difference in saving vision. Your eyes may seem delicate, but they're surprisingly resilient.

Inside the eyes

The front parts of your eyes — the white area (sclera), the dark spot in the middle (pupil) and the colored portion that surrounds it (iris) — absorb impact and are most visibly damaged in a traumatic or chemical eye injury. But injuries can affect any part of the eye, each of which play a role in allowing sight:

  • The cornea — The cornea is a protective dome of clear tissue at the front of your eye. Its curved surface helps focus light rays before they're fine-tuned by the lens.
  • The lens — The lens is a clear, oval structure that sits behind the iris. The curvature of your lens changes to sharpen your focus.
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