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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Special Topics > Eye Emergencies
      Category : Health Centers > Eyes and Vision

Eye Emergencies

Overview & Description

There are three levels of eye emergencies:

1. true emergencies that require immediate treatment within seconds or minutes

2. urgent situations requiring diagnosis and treatment within 1 to several hours

3. semiurgent situations that call for treatment within days or weeks

What is the information for this topic?

It's important to seek appropriate and timely treatment for eye problems to avoid visual impairments.

True emergencies must be treated within minutes. There are really only two true emergencies of the eye:

  • chemical burns, which occur when caustic solutions are splashed into the eye
  • retinal artery occlusion, which causes sudden painless loss of vision in one eye when the main artery to the retina is blocked
  • Urgent situations require therapy to be started within hours. Some examples include:

  • acute glaucoma, which is a sudden rise in pressure in the eyeball that causes pain and decreased vision
  • cellulitis, an infection of the eye socket that causes pain and swelling
  • corneal abrasions, or scratches on the cornea, often caused by a foreign body
  • corneal ulcers, which are small painful sores on the cornea
  • endophthalmitis, an infection inside the eye that causes sudden severe eye pain and visual impairment
  • hyphema, or bleeding in the front chamber of the eye caused by blunt trauma
  • iritis, an inflammation of the iris that causes acute eye pain, redness, and sensitivity to light
  • lid lacerations, or cuts on the upper or lower eyelid
  • penetrating injury of the eyeball by a foreign body
  • retinal detachments and tears, which cause a sudden onset of flashing lights or floaters and a shadow over part of the field of vision
  • Semiurgent situations require therapy to be started within days or a few weeks. Some examples include:

  • exophthalmos, or a bulging of the eyeball with an appearance of staring
  • fractures of the facial bones that involve the eye socket
  • muscle imbalances in the eye
  • optic neuritis, an inflammation of the optic nerve that causes sudden blurring and/or dimming of vision in one or both eyes
  • tumors of the eye, optic nerve, or orbit


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    Author: William Stevens, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 09/14/01

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