Common Eye Emergencies

Eye emergencies have the potential to cause permanent vision loss if they are not promptly recognized and treated. Common ocular (eye) emergencies include retinal detachments, mechanical globe injuries and chemical injuries.

  • Retinal Detachments: Retinal detachment occurs when the neurosensory layer of the retina is separated from the underlying retinal pigment epithelium. Most retinal detachments are preceded by a posterior vitreous detachment which causes traction on the retina and, potentially, a retinal tear. The liquefied vitreous can then seep through the tear and under the retina, causing it to detach. Retinal detachments may be localized initially, but without treatment they may progress and lead to irreversible vision loss.
  • Mechanical Globe Injuries: Mechanical globe injuries occur when there is a full-thickness rupture or laceration through the cornea and/or sclera. Globe ruptures occur after blunt injury to the eye such as from a thrown ball, motor vehicle crash or assault. Globe lacerations also occur after trauma from a sharp penetrating object such as a knife or small, high-velocity projectile.
  • Chemical Injuries: Chemical eye injuries occur after exposure of the ocular surface to an acid or alkali in the form of a liquid, powder or gas. The severity of injury depends on the pH concentration of the chemical and the duration of contact with the ocular surface. Chemical burns damage the conjunctival and corneal epithelium and may cause damage to the conjunctival and scleral vessels, potentially affecting the entire anterior segment of the eye.

Prompt recognition and appropriate treatment of ocular emergencies are essential.  All eye emergencies should be referred immediately to the emergency department or an ophthalmologist. Careful eye examinations and simple tests can help primary care physicians make decisions about appropriate treatment and referral. All patients with eye problems should be tested for visual acuity and ocular movements. In Phoenix, our Doctors are able to diagnose and treat many eye emergencies. For more information, contact Associated Retina Consultants at 602-242-4928 or website.  

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