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Where to Go for Emergency Eye Care?

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An ophthalmologist examining the eye of a patient.

Eye emergencies are serious problems that can lead to long-term vision loss and eye damage. Knowing what to do and where to go is essential if you’re experiencing an eye emergency. The quicker you act, the easier it often is to solve any potential problems.

If you have an eye emergency, stay calm. Do not touch your eyes or try to remove any foreign objects. Then, immediately make your way to the nearest hospital or optometrist to seek emergency eye care. It can help to speak to your optometrist about eye emergencies during your next visit—this way, you can know what to do and whether or not they can help. Make sure to note their clinic hours as well! 

What to Do if You Have an Eye Emergency

An eye emergency can be frightening at first, but staying calm is essential. Your first step should be to quickly and carefully assess the situation. Follow these steps:

  • Assess the severity: If possible, evaluate how serious the situation is. Use a mirror if necessary to determine if there’s any significant damage, an object stuck in your eye, or if the problem only affects one eye.
  • Immediately protect your eyes: If you have an object stuck in your eye, do not touch it. Avoid rubbing, scratching, or applying any kind of pressure. Do not try to remove it. Depending on the severity of the damage, you can gently flush your eye with water, but if the object is embedded, do not touch it at all.
  • Take action: If you believe the situation is serious enough or your vision is significantly affected, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Do not self-diagnose: Avoid taking ointments, medication, or alternate fixes without professional guidance; this can worsen the issue.
  • Seek medical attention: Call for help immediately or have somebody take you to an eye care professional or hospital. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and a healthcare or eye care professional can help determine the severity of the problem and how to solve it.

What Counts as Emergency Eye Care?   

A close-up of a woman's swollen right eye.

While recognizing an eye emergency isn’t always straightforward, some clear signs can indicate the need for immediate care or medical intervention. If you notice any of the following, it’s an eye emergency:

  • Any shooting or sharp pains in the eye
  • A sudden loss of vision
  • Any injury, including cuts, scratches, punctures, or burns
  • Chemical exposure, whether airborne or splashed
  • Sudden blurry vision, especially if accompanied by redness or pain
  • A significant sudden increase in floaters
  • Bright flashing lights accompanied by discomfort or pain
  • Sudden bulging or swelling in the eye
  • A foreign object stuck in the eye

If you recognize any of these signs, take action immediately and seek emergency eye care. This can help reduce the risk of long-term damage to the eye or vision loss.

Can an Optometrist Provide Emergency Eye Care?

Your optometrist is trained to handle a wide range of eye conditions, diseases, and other problems. However, it’s important to note their experience in providing emergency eye care can sometimes be limited. This can vary depending on the practice.

While optometrists are often trained to handle plenty of different problems, there is no guarantee that they can solve your problem. However, they can refer you to an ophthalmologist or a hospital if they believe the problem is severe enough. They can also help with conditions like:

  • Pink eye
  • Mild-to-moderate irritation
  • Foreign object removal
  • Infections

They can help determine whether or not you’re at risk of long-term vision damage. It can help to speak with your optometrist before an emergency occurs. Understanding whether or not your optometrist can help can make handling an emergency much easier. It’s also essential to make a note of their clinic hours; if their clinic is closed, they won’t be able to help.

This way, you’ll know whether your optometrist can provide emergency care or if you should go straight to a hospital. If your optometrist is unable to help, or if a hospital is closer, visit the hospital to get immediate medical attention.

Emergency Eye Care in Toronto

Acting quickly during an eye emergency is one of the easiest ways to preserve your eyes and protect your vision. Our team at St. Clair Eye Clinic in Toronto is here to help. If you’re experiencing an eye emergency, contact our team; we may be able to help.

Written by Erez Elias

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