Should I Go To the ER, Urgent Care, or an Eye Doctor for an Eye Emergency? 

If you’ve injured your eye or experienced any type of chemical burn in the eye area, you’re likely wondering where to go for eye emergency situations. If your injury is severe, you may need to visit the emergency room. 

Many people are unsure whether to go to an eye doctor for an emergency or to make an eye care appointment for eye trauma, burns, or lacerations. True Eye Experts has compiled the following guide to determine which setting is appropriate for different types of eye problems. 

What Qualifies as an Eye Emergency? 

Eye emergencies aren’t always obvious, and sometimes it’s challenging to differentiate between a moderate problem and an urgent situation. Seeing small flashes of light after a head injury, for example, is a more concerning situation than itchy, scratchy eyes that may be due to seasonal allergies — even if the allergies really bother you. Here are a few types of eye problems that need immediate attention: 

Eye Injuries and Accidents 

If you’ve injured your eye or been in an accident that caused trauma to the eye area, schedule an examination with your optometrist immediately. 

  • Injury to the eye: A severely torn or cut eyelid, blood or pus oozing from your eye, or damage to your face surrounding the eye are apparent signs that you should go to the emergency room or an urgent care center that can administer first aid and prevent infection. Once they address the acute injury, schedule a follow-up with your eye doctor. They will determine whether your eye will heal independently or if additional assessment or treatment is needed to ensure your continued eye health. 
  • Trauma to the eye area: An eye doctor should always examine your eyes after trauma to the eye area. These incidents may include falling on your face, getting hit with a heavy ball during sports practice, or experiencing an accident that sends debris, such as sand or glass particles flying into your face. If there is any concern about a concussion, seek emergency treatment before calling for an eye appointment. 

Chemical Burns 

Eyes are delicate and can be easily damaged by strong chemicals. Regardless of what splashed in your eye, it’s a good idea to flush the eye with water and remove contact lenses if you’re wearing them. In the case of milder chemicals, flushing your eyes with water may be a quick solution.  

However, if your eye doesn’t feel right after rinsing the chemical away, schedule an emergency exam appointment with your eye doctor. If you’re in a lot of pain or the chemical burn has affected your face or other parts of your body — head to the nearest emergency room immediately. 

Potential Medical Issues 

What should you do if there’s no discernible cause for your strange symptoms? If you woke up with blurry vision, swelling around your eye, fluid leaking from your eye, or dilated pupils, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to determine the cause. Explain the problem in detail and resist the urge to diagnose it at home or wait it out. 

Blurry vision, for example, may mean that you need a new prescription — but it’s also a symptom of eyestrain, an indicator of diabetes, and a red flag for inflammation in your optic nerve. In short, it can be nearly impossible to figure out the cause of even minor symptoms at home. You should address potential medical issues with a licensed eye doctor as soon as possible. 

What Is Pinkeye (Conjunctivitis), and Is It an Emergency? 

You may feel alarmed if you or your child wakes up with a bad case of pinkeye (conjunctivitis). Fortunately, as annoying as pinkeye can be, it’s not always considered an emergency. However, it may be difficult to diagnose the cause as bacteria, viruses, and even allergies can cause this condition, so it’s important to visit an eye doctor to know for sure. 

Optometrists are well-versed in treating conjunctivitis and can make specialized recommendations based on your eye history. In Florida, an optometrist can also prescribe medication, if necessary, to help your eyes feel better. 

When To Go To The ER for an Eye Emergency 

It’s essential to know the difference between an eye problem that needs care and an emergency that requires immediate attention. Here are some tips to help you decide whether you should go to the ER: 

  • Do you have debris stuck or embedded in your eye? 
  • Do you have eye symptoms such as floaters, flashing lights, or sensitivity to light after head or eye trauma? 
  • Are you bleeding excessively? 
  • Do you have an extreme headache with eye symptoms? 
  • Have you lost vision in one or both eyes? 

These symptoms call for emergency treatment. Another good way to tell if your situation is ER-worthy is to assess the magnitude of the problem. For example, getting sand in your eye is uncomfortable and might require treatment if you’ve rubbed it in — but getting a large piece of glass stuck in your eye is a medical emergency that requires a trip to the ER.  

After receiving medical attention, follow up with your eye doctor to make a long-term plan that addresses your vision and the health of your eye tissues. 

Contact True Eye Experts To Schedule Your Appointment 

If you’re unsure where to go for eye emergencies or don’t know how severe your eye problem is, it’s a good idea to immediately visit the ER rather than wait for an eye appointment. Contact True Eye Experts to set a date for your follow-up exam or to ask questions about your care. 

True Eye Experts offers a wide range of eye care solutions, including yearly eye exams, disease management, and emergency eye care. Book your appointment today to determine how we can help you see as clearly as possible! 


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