Eye Emergencies: What to Do & Where to Go

The weather is finally changing in Colorado and we are nearing the snowstorms and cold temperatures that we call winter… AND also cold and flu season. With COVID-19 still surging through our nation, some experts are predicting that cases will increase through winter, which may mean that Colorado communities are again called on to reduce emergency room visits. We all know that emergencies will still happen so here is what to do in case of an eye emergency.

Symptoms That Need Immediate Attention

  • Black spots or flashes of light
  • Curtain-like disappearance of vision
  • Injury/trauma to the eye
  • Eye pain (pain is an indicator of inflammation or injury)
  • Seeing halos or rainbows around light
  • Loss of peripheral (side) vision
  • Sudden hazy or blurred vision
  • Sudden vision loss in one eye
  • Red, crusty or swollen eyelids
  • Pupils are different sizes

Symptoms That Need an Eye Exam Soon

  • Blurred or double vision
  • Excessive tearing or watering of your eyes
  • Itchy, burning, or dry eyes
  • Difficulty seeing in dark environments
  • Seeing spots or ghost-like images
  • Light sensitivity
  • Eye strain and/or frequent mild headaches

Many Colorado eye doctors have after hours care and are a more appropriate place to care for your ocular emergency.  Call your eye care provider first to see if you should be seen by your optometrist or if your situation is better addressed in the emergency department.

“As we approach winter, it’s important for Colorado communities to understand how to access eye health care while reducing emergency room visits. This will be very important to free up hospital resources during the pandemic as we work to stay healthy and limit the virus spread,” says Dr. Tom Cruse, President of the Colorado Optometric Association’s Board of Directors.

If you are experiencing an eye emergency and do not have an optometrist find one in the Colorado Directory of Optometrists at: 2020EyesColorado.org

Emergencies an Eye Doctor Can Treat:

Blunt Eye Trauma

  • Apply a cold compress without putting pressure on the eye to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Severe pain or reduced vision require immediate care from an eye doctor.

Eye Cut, Puncture or Foreign Body to the Eye or Eyelid

  • Do not attempt to remove an object from your eye or eyelid.
  • Do not wash out the eye for punctures, cuts or foreign bodies.
  • Do not bandage the eye.
  • Do not rub the eye.
  • Protect the eye with a rigid shield, like sunglasses or the bottom half of a paper cup and see an eye doctor immediately.

Chemical Burn of the Eye

  • Flush eye(s) thoroughly with saline (preferably) or water for 15 minutes and get to an eye care professional immediately.
  • For individuals with contact lenses, attempt to remove them first.
  • Do not try to neutralize the chemical with another chemical or substance.

Sudden Vision Changes or Loss

Address quickly with your optometrist to avoid permanent vision loss and rule out more serious health issues like stroke, nerve damage, neurological issues, and retinal or corneal defects.

Red Eye

  • Red eye with discharge needs to be examined by an optometrist as soon as possible for correct identification and treatment for the type of conjunctivitis (pink eye). Emergency rooms have a history of overprescribing antibiotics for conjunctivitis when 80% of cases are viral.
  • Red eye could also indicate uveitis or ocular herpes, which can be sight-threatening making quick and proper evaluation by an eye doctor important.

Pupils are Different Sizes (pupil anisocoria)

  • If you were born with this condition it is benign.
  • If this is a new symptom, whether it’s constant or sporadic, schedule an exam with your optometrist as soon as possible as this could be vision threatening.

Pandemic Stress Can Change Your Eyesight

How have the last few months been for you?

Regardless of the positives in your life you’re probably baseline stressed.

It’s normal to feel anxious, stressed, overwhelmed or even scared right now. Colorado is experiencing both a pandemic and a civil rights movement alongside the compounding challenges of reopening schools, a high unemployment rate, and smoke from wildfires keeping many people inside… oh yes and we’re in the midst of an election season.

It’s fair to say that Coloradans are carrying more stress with them on a consistent basis, but what is it doing to our bodies?

We’ve all had that moment where we get some bad news and we can feel the stress take over our bodies. This is called fight, flight or freeze and it’s where your body moves into protection mode.  Initially, your heart may pump faster as adrenaline moves through the body, your breathing becomes shallow, and your pupils dilate enhancing your ability to see danger. Your body is preparing for a physical threat even if the stress is from a non-physical threat like a difficult project at work or a spat with a friend.

You may experience mild stress, or you may experience high stress. The eyes also experience a range of impact due to stress from mild discomfort to debilitating vision loss.

Symptoms of Stress Impacting Eye Health:

  • Tunnel vision – Loss of visual acuity in the peripheral vision. Feels like you can only see in front of you.
  • Light sensitivity – An intolerance to light. Feels like you have to close your eyes when experiencing light and there is discomfort.
  • Eye twitching – Random spasms around the lid of one or both eyes.
  • Very dry or very wet eyes – Both of these can be cause by stress depending on your body’s response.
  • Blurry vision – This is usually mild when caused by stress.
  • Eye strain – Fatigue of the eyes may be caused by stress, but can also be caused by too much screen time.
  • Vision Loss – The stress hormone cortisol can damage the eye and the brain. Stress is also linked to causing diseases that can lead to vision loss including glaucoma.

It’s more likely that your eye’s response to stress will be minor, but if any of these symptoms are impacting your quality of life or the symptoms persist contact your optometrist immediately.

Ideas to Lower Stress & Relax Your Eyes

  • Reduce your screen time for a few days to reduce eye strain and give eye muscles a break
  • During screen time use the 20-20-20 Rule. Every 20minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20
  • Participate in a daily meditation
  • Exercise daily
  • Walk outside if possible
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get good sleep

We know that stress impacts every system of the body including our eyes. Colorado’s doctors of optometry want you to know that the benefits of managing stress on a daily basis will not only improve your eye health, but your overall health. Even picking one stress reducing activity daily can help. What will you pick?

Pandemic Stress Can Change Your Eyesight

How have the last few months been for you?

Regardless of the positives in your life you’re probably baseline stressed.

It’s normal to feel anxious, stressed, overwhelmed or even scared right now. Colorado is experiencing both a pandemic and a civil rights movement alongside the compounding challenges of reopening schools, a high unemployment rate, and smoke from wildfires keeping many people inside… oh yes and we’re in the midst of an election season.

It’s fair to say that Coloradans are carrying more stress with them on a consistent basis, but what is it doing to our bodies?

We’ve all had that moment where we get some bad news and we can feel the stress take over our bodies. This is called fight, flight or freeze and it’s where your body moves into protection mode.  Initially, your heart may pump faster as adrenaline moves through the body, your breathing becomes shallow, and your pupils dilate enhancing your ability to see danger. Your body is preparing for a physical threat even if the stress is from a non-physical threat like a difficult project at work or a spat with a friend.

You may experience mild stress, or you may experience high stress. The eyes also experience a range of impact due to stress from mild discomfort to debilitating vision loss.

Symptoms of Stress Impacting Eye Health:

  • Tunnel vision – Loss of visual acuity in the peripheral vision. Feels like you can only see in front of you.
  • Light sensitivity – An intolerance to light. Feels like you have to close your eyes when experiencing light and there is discomfort.
  • Eye twitching – Random spasms around the lid of one or both eyes.
  • Very dry or very wet eyes – Both of these can be cause by stress depending on your body’s response.
  • Blurry vision – This is usually mild when caused by stress.
  • Eye strain – Fatigue of the eyes may be caused by stress, but can also be caused by too much screen time.
  • Vision Loss – The stress hormone cortisol can damage the eye and the brain. Stress is also linked to causing diseases that can lead to vision loss including glaucoma.

It’s more likely that your eye’s response to stress will be minor, but if any of these symptoms are impacting your quality of life or the symptoms persist contact your optometrist immediately.

Ideas to Lower Stress & Relax Your Eyes

  • Reduce your screen time for a few days to reduce eye strain and give eye muscles a break
  • During screen time use the 20-20-20 Rule. Every 20minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20
  • Participate in a daily meditation
  • Exercise daily
  • Walk outside if possible
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get good sleep

We know that stress impacts every system of the body including our eyes. Colorado’s doctors of optometry want you to know that the benefits of managing stress on a daily basis will not only improve your eye health, but your overall health. Even picking one stress reducing activity daily can help. What will you pick?

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