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Where to Go for Emergency Eye Care

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An optometrist using a flashlight to examine a woman's eyes at an optometry office

When you’re experiencing an eye emergency, time is of the essence. You need to seek treatment immediately to ensure that your eyes are not damaged further. If you have an eye emergency, the first place you should call is your optometry office. If your optometry office is closed, proceed to the closest emergency room or urgent care center.

In addition to preventative eye care and eye exams for conditions like dry eyes and other eye diseases, your optometrist may be able to provide emergency eye care when sudden eye injuries occur.  

Knowing about the different types of eye emergencies and when to visit an eye care professional can help ensure that you’re able to receive care for your eyes during any potential future emergencies.

Types of Eye Emergencies

An eye emergency is an injury or problem threatening your sight. It can be as simple as a small scratch on your cornea or as serious as a detached retina. No matter the problem, it’s important to get medical attention for eye emergencies immediately.

There are many types of eye emergencies, but some of the most common include trauma, chemical splashes, and punctures.


Trauma is any type of blunt force or physical impact in or near the eye. It can happen from a fall, a car accident, or even getting hit in the face with a ball. If you experience any pain, swelling, bleeding, or changes in vision after sustaining an injury to the head or eyes, it’s important to seek medical attention right away.

A few different symptoms may indicate that you have sustained an eye injury.

  • A black eye usually indicates that there is bruising around the eye. It can happen when blood leaks from small vessels under the skin and collects in the tissue around the eye. If your black eye is accompanied by severe pain, swelling, or vision changes, it could be a sign of a more serious injury, and you should see a doctor immediately. 
  • If you notice any bleeding from your eye or from the tissue surrounding your eye, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately, as this could be a sign of internal bleeding. 
  • Swelling is often one of the first signs of an eye injury. If you notice that your eyelid is swollen or that your eyeball feels enlarged, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible so that they can determine whether or not you have sustained any damage to your eyeball itself. 
  • Sharp eye pain is a common indicator that something isn’t quite right. If you experience sharp pain in your eye after sustaining an injury, it’s important to see a doctor right away, as this could be indicative of damage to your eyeball itself. 

Chemical Splash

Chemical splashes in the eye can be extremely painful and cause permanent damage if not treated properly and immediately. If you splash any type of chemical in your eye, flush it out with cool, clean water for several minutes and then call your optometry clinic so they can take a look and make sure everything is okay.

There are three main types of chemical injuries: irritants, alkali burns, and acid burns:

  • Irritants are found in household items with a more neutral pH, like detergents and pepper spray. These usually cause redness and tearing but don’t typically cause long-term damage. 
  • Alkali burns are caused by chemicals in everyday objects like fertilizer, cleaning products, and cement. These burns are usually more serious because they destroy tissue on contact. Alkali burn symptoms include severe pain, blurred vision, and redness. 
  • Acid burns happen when eyes are exposed to chemicals like nail polish, vinegar, or car batteries. These can be extremely painful and cause permanent damage if not treated immediately. Acid burn symptoms include burning eyes, watering eyes, red or pink eyes, and eyelid swelling. 


If an object becomes embedded in your eye, you should seek immediate medical attention. A puncture is a severe eye emergency, and the item should only be removed by a medical professional. Do not try to remove the object yourself, as this could cause further damage. 

A male doctor is examining a male patient with a black eye in the emergency room.

When and Where to Seek Emergency Eye Care

To help you figure out when and where to go for emergency eye care, let’s look at the signs indicating the need for medical help and when you should call 911. 

When to Call a Doctor 

If you have suffered an eye injury, some signs indicate you should see an optometrist or emergency medical professional right away.

If there is a deep cut on your eyelid or around your eye, if there has been a loss of vision due to the injury, if there is pain associated with the injury, or if a bone has been broken in the area, then you should seek medical attention immediately.

Additionally, if something sharp like metal or glass gets stuck in your eye, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Other signs include swelling in the eye, double vision, severe pain, torn eyelids and a deep ache around the eye area accompanied by headache. 

When to Call 911 or Proceed to the Closest Emergency Room

In more serious cases, it may be necessary to call 911 instead of seeking help from your optometrist directly.

These cases involve situations where metal or glass has become lodged into your eye or where any chemical enters your eyes and you’re not able to flush it out with water and relieve the pain afterward.

In either case, it is important to seek help quickly so any further damage can be avoided and treated properly. 

Get the Eye Care You Need from Seal Beach Eyes Optometry

When you experience an eye emergency, you must act quickly to get help. Your first point of contact should be your optometry office. Visit the closest emergency room or urgent care center if your optometrist’s office is closed.

Seal Beach Eyes Optometry is your local neighborhood optometrist. Our eye care professionals provide emergency eye care and many other eye care services. They are passionate about teaching their patients and encouraging preventative care to preserve long-term vision. 

For a friendly, knowledgeable team of professionals you can trust for all your vision needs, contact Seal Beach Eyes Optometry today!

Written by Total Vision

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