First Time User? Enroll now.
Notice of Data Security Incident
COVID-19: Vaccine information, visitor restrictions, and additional resources | Medicaid: The program is changing and you must take steps to keep your UNC Health providers
Home > Health Library > Eye Injuries
It's common for a speck of dirt to get blown into your eye, for soap to wash into your eye, or for you to accidentally bump your eye. For these types of minor eye injuries, home treatment is usually all that is needed.
See a picture of the eye.
Some sports and recreational activities increase the risk of eye injuries.
Direct blows to the eye can damage the skin and other tissues around the eye, the eyeball, or the bones of the eye socket. Blows to the eye often cause bruising around the eye (black eye) or cuts to the eyelid. If a blow to the eye or a cut to the eyelid occurred during an accident, be sure to check for injuries to the eyeball itself and for other injuries, especially to the head or face. Concern about an eye injury may cause you to miss other injuries that need attention.
Burns to the eye may be caused by chemicals, fumes, hot air or steam, sunlight, tanning lamps, electric hair curlers or dryers, or welding equipment. Bursts of flames or flash fires from stoves or explosives can also burn the face and eyes.
For more information, see the topic Burns to the Eye.
A foreign object in the eye, such as dirt, an eyelash, a contact lens, or makeup, can cause eye symptoms.
In the case of a car air bag inflating, all three types of eye injuries can occur. The force of impact can cause a blow to the eye, foreign objects may enter the eye, and chemicals in the air bag can burn the eye.
Eye injuries can be prevented by using protective eyewear. Wear safety glasses, goggles, or face shields when working with power tools or chemicals or when doing any activity that might cause an object or substance to get into your eyes. Some professions, such as health care and construction, may require workers to use protective eyewear to reduce the risk of foreign objects or substances or body fluids getting in the eyes.
After an eye injury, you need to watch for vision changes and symptoms of an infection. Most minor eye injuries can be treated at home. See Home Treatment for first aid measures.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
There are a couple of ways to safely remove an object from the eye.
Do not try to remove:
To remove a nonmetal object that is on the surface of the eye or inside the eyelid:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in children are:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Most minor eye injuries can be treated at home.
More specific home treatment can be used for certain types of eye injuries.
If your eye symptoms are not completely gone after 24 hours of home treatment, see your doctor.
Applying first aid measures for an eye injury in a child may be difficult, depending on the child's age, size, and ability to cooperate. Having another adult help you treat the child is helpful. Stay calm and talk in a soothing voice. Use slow, gentle movements to help the child remain calm and cooperative. A struggling child may need to be held strongly so that first aid can be started and the seriousness of the eye injury assessed.
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
If you wear contacts, be sure to remove your contacts.
The following tips may help prevent eye injuries.
Eye injuries are common in children, and many can be prevented. Most eye injuries happen in older children. They happen more often in boys than in girls. Toys—from crayons to toy guns—are a major source of injury, so check all toys for sharp or pointed parts. Household items, such as elastic cords, can also strike the eye and cause injury.
Teach your children about eye safety.
Any eye injury that appears unusual for a child's age should be evaluated as possible child abuse.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topicMaking the Most of Your Appointment.
If you have had an eye injury that affects your vision, have someone else drive you to your doctor. If you are wearing contact lenses, remove them and take your glasses with you.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions.
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.