Eye Injury

Is this your symptom?

  • Injury to the eye, eyelid, or area around the eye

Types of Eye Injuries

  • Cut or Scratch of Eyelid. Small cuts heal on their own. Deep cuts or ones that go through the edge of the eyelid need sutures.
  • Bruise of the Eyelids. Also called a "black eye." The swelling and bruise get worse for a few days. Then it will go away on its own over 2 -3 weeks. It's normal for the bruise to change colors as it heals.
  • Subconjunctival Hemorrhage. This is a flame-shaped bruise of the white part (sclera) of the eyeball. It's bright red. It's caused by a scratch to the sclera. It's a mild injury that will go away on its own over 2 weeks. It will start to turn yellow as it gets better.
  • Corneal Abrasion. A scratch of the clear part (cornea) of the eye. The cornea is the window in front of the iris. The main symptoms are severe eye pain, tearing and constant blinking. Some people will just hold their eye closed because it is too painful to open. Caused by a scratch from a branch of a tree or bush. Can also be caused by a foreign object stuck under the upper eyelid, such as a speck of sand blown into the eye. Most scratches are minor and heal in 2 days. This is the most common eye injury that needs to see a doctor.
  • Acute Hyphema (serious). It means bleeding in the space between the cornea and the iris. The blood often layers out at the bottom of the cornea. It's caused by blunt trauma.
  • Punctured Eyeball (serious). It means a sharp object has completely torn the cornea or sclera. Can happen with tiny objects thrown by a lawnmower. Seek care right away. This could save your vision.
  • Retrobulbar hemorrhage (serious). After an injury to the eye, there can be bleeding behind they eye. The blood collects and pushes the eyeball forwards and causes severe pain and loss of vision. You may not be able to move the eye. It is an emergency and needs treatment right away to prevent permanent loss of vision.
  • Orbital Fractures (serious) can occur with blunt injury. There will be pain and swelling around the eye. The eye may appear sunken and there may also be double vision.
  • Detached retina (serious). This can occur for many reasons. It can occur at the time of an injury or months to years later. You may see floaters or flashes of light in the eye and sudden loss of the edge (periphery) of the vision. It is often described as a dark curtain, which affects most of the visual field (apart from the very center), if untreated. This needs an urgent exam and treatment to restore vision.


  • The main concern is whether the vision is damaged.
  • Some conditions need emergency treatment to prevent permanent vision loss.
  • Tell your doctor if your vision is blurred or out of focus. You can test this at home. Cover each eye in turn and look at a distant object.
  • If you have an eye injury, you usually need an exam, even if the injury seems minor. Having an exam is the only way to know your vision is okay.

When to Call for Eye Injury

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Any cut on the eyelid
  • Eye pain is more than mild
  • You have cut or scratch and have never had any tetanus shots
  • Pupils not equal in size or irregular shape (not round)
  • You think you have a serious injury
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Contact Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Bruises near the eye and eye pain
  • Eyelids are very swollen
  • You have a clean minor wound and have NOT had a tetanus shot within the past 10 years
  • You have a wound that is dirty or difficult to clean and it is MORE than 5 years since your last tetanus shot
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Contact Doctor During Office Hours

  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Minor eye injury

Care Advice for Minor Eye Injuries

  1. Small Cuts, Scratches or Scrapes Around the Eye:
    • For any bleeding (as long as there is not an object, like glass, sticking out of the wound), put direct pressure on the wound. Use a gauze pad or clean cloth. Press for 10 minutes or until the bleeding has stopped.
    • Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes. Protect the eye with a clean cloth.
    • For cuts or scrapes, use an antibiotic ointment (such as Polysporin). No prescription is needed.
      Put it on the cut 3 times a day. Do this for 3 days.
    • Cover large scrapes with a bandage (such as Band-Aid). Change daily.
  2. Swelling or Bruises with Intact Skin (including a Black Eye):
    • Put a cold pack or ice wrapped in a wet cloth on the eye. Do this for 20 minutes. This will help stop the bleeding and swelling. Repeat as needed.
    • A black eye usually takes 1 to 2 days to occur.
    • A flame-shaped bruise of the white of the eyeball is also common.
    • After 48 hours, use a warm wet cloth for 10 minutes. Do this 3 times per day. Reason: to help reabsorb the blood.
  3. Pain Medicine:
    • To help with the pain, give an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol).
    • Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil).
    • Use as needed, but do not take more than the recommended dosage as stated on the package.
    • If you are not sure what to take, as a pharmacist.
  4. What to Expect:
    • Minor cuts and scratches, as well as bruises, are harmless.
    • They last about 2 weeks.
    • They do not need any medicine to help them go away.
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Pain becomes severe
    • You develop swelling and redness around the eye
    • Changes in vision
    • You think you need to be seen
    • Your symptoms get worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.

Last Reviewed: 10/11/2023 1:00:45 AM
Last Updated: 4/13/2023 1:00:38 AM

Copyright 2023 Schmitt Decision Logic LLC.

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