Straight, No Chaser: Eye Pain

Look at the picture. What would you do if that was your eye? Would you try to remove the object or be too afraid, fearing that you could permanently damage it? Does the amount of pain you’re in make a difference? Eye pain is a good example of how people use the ER in general. For as many people who come to the emergency room for seemingly minor things, there’s even more that delay coming because of a thought that things will get better. When it comes to your eyes, you only have two and can’t afford to lose even one. This Straight, No Chaser focuses on eye pain that likely represents a true emergency and for which waiting should not be an option. If you have any of these signs or symptoms, come in while you still can see (if indeed you still can).

eye stroke

Sudden vision loss: The problem with sudden vision loss is that it didn’t happen by accident, and it’s not likely to get better without prompt relief. This could represent a stroke involving the eyes’ blood vessels (amaurosis fugax), a blockage of those blood vessels (central retinal artery occlusion), a retinal detachment and a few other critical considerations. The point to be made is that in most of these examples, you should assume that only a limited amount of time exists to repair the damage before the eye injury causes permanent damage.


Eye pain: Yes, there’s a lot of benign things that cause eye pain, but there are some serious considerations, including the following:

  • Burns (seen very commonly in welders and those using chemicals)
  • Conjunctivitis (yep, even this can be serious when caused by gonorrhea or a herpes virus – wash your hands!)
  • Glaucoma
  • Inflammation of various components of the eye (uveitis, keratitis)
  • Migraines
  • Scratches and ulcers to the eye surface (the cornea – do not sleep in your contacts unless this has been approved by your eye doctor; it just sets you up for bad things to happen)
  • Trauma
  • Tumors


Something is in your eye: Whether a chemical splash, a piece of metal, a branch or other foreign body, there are several concerns you should have. In the example of the chemical splash, something may be burning through the layer of your eye, putting it at risk for rupture. One word – IRRIGATE! If some object is in there that you cannot remove by blinking, odds are it’s not going away. Don’t cause more damage than is already there by digging around in your eye. Get evaluated.

eye pain1

Visualization of flashing lights and floaters: The most concerning cause of this phenomenon is a retinal detachment, which is a serious eye-threatening emergency. Visualize (no pun intended) wallpaper peeling off a wall. Unfortunately in this analogy, the retina is like the film in your camera, capturing the images of the world you see. If your retina’s gone from its natural position, you’re not seeing anything.
Eye hope you’ve found this post illuminating.
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