What Is Considered A True Eye Emergency?

It’s true that we should never take our vision for granted. This means that when problems occur with the condition of our eyes or our eyesight, it can be easy to panic and assume every scenario is an emergency. However, this is rarely the case. 


A true eye emergency is one whereby the patient needs to seek immediate, urgent care in order to preserve their vision. Here are some true eye emergencies and their symptoms, so that you know when to contact your eye doctor right away. 


Retinal Detachment 

The retina is the area of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye that receives light and turns it into signals which are sent to our brain, determining what we can see. Retinal detachment is a vision-threatening problem that occurs when the retina comes away from the back of the eye. It must be treated as quickly as possible to stop it from permanently affecting your sight. Patients who have high levels of myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), uncontrolled diabetes (and so have a complication known as diabetic retinopathy), and who have experienced trauma to the eye are more at risk of retinal detachment, which usually starts with a small hole in the retina.  


Signs and symptoms of retinal detachment include:

  • Sudden persistent flashes of light in your vision

  • Sudden blurred vision

  • A dark curtain or shadow moving across your field of vision

  • Dots/lines or floaters suddenly appear in large numbers


If you experience these symptoms, it’s important to contact your eye doctor for an assessment right away.


Acute Glaucoma

In most patients, glaucoma is a very slow-developing condition that will be detected at routine eye exams. However, a small percentage of people every year experience acute glaucoma, also sometimes known as closed-angle glaucoma. This is characterized by a sudden increase in eye pressure (intraocular pressure) that causes damage to the optic nerve – the main pathway of messages from the retina to the brain. This damage is irreversible, and immediate action is essential to preserve your vision. 


Signs and symptoms of acute glaucoma include:


  • Severe eye pain

  • Agonizing headaches

  • A feeling of pressure inside the head

  • Blurred vision

  • Sudden floaters or flashes in your field of vision


If you experience any of these, get to your eye doctor immediately. 


Orbital Cellulitis

This emergency refers to an infection of the eyelid that then spreads behind the eye and is usually the result of a sinus infection that has spread to affect the surrounding tissues. When this happens, the pressure caused by the infection pushes the eye forwards. The only solution is surgery to open up and relieve the infected area. 


Patients who have orbital cellulitis may look as though their eye is popping out of its socket. Other symptoms include:


  • Swelling

  • Redness

  • Pain

  • Tenderness to the touch


Eye Penetration

Accidents and injuries take many forms, but one of the most common eye traumas is where a sharp object penetrates the eye itself. Unsurprisingly, this can cause severe damage to your vision. Not only will any puncture wounds cause the eye to lose pressure suddenly, but other key elements of your visual system could also be damaged. Surgical repair is necessary in nearly all cases, but the extent of the damage will dramatically affect the outcome. If you have an accident that causes your eye to be penetrated by a foreign object, don’t delay and get to your eye doctor right away. 




For more information on eye emergencies, visit Professional Eye Care at Westar in Westerville, Ohio. Call (614) 686-2300 to schedule an appointment today.

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