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First aid

Eye injury

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First Aid - Eyelids - Glass On
First Aid - Eyelids - Glass On

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

General Information

  • Vision and Eye Injuries: It is important to test vision in both eyes. If there has been no damage to the vision, then most likely there is no serious injury to the eyeball. Test vision at home by covering each eye in turn and looking at a near object and then a distant object. Is the vision blurred in comparison to normal?
  • Black Eye: Bruising and purple discoloration of the eyelids and upper cheek is referred to as a "black eye." Usually it is the result of a direct blow to this area (e.g., a punch). It gets worse for the first couple of days. It usually goes away in 2-3 weeks.
  • Subconjunctival Hemorrhage: This is the medical term for a flame-shaped bruise of the white area of the eyeball, which sometimes occurs after a direct blow to the eye. It usually goes away in 2-3 weeks.


If not, see these topics

When to Call Your Doctor

Call 911 Now (you may need an ambulance) If
  • Knocked out (unconscious)
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • You think you have a serious injury
  • Vision is blurred or lost in either eye
  • Severe pain
  • Constant tearing or blinking
  • Double vision or unable to look upward
  • Bloody or cloudy fluid behind the cornea (clear part)
  • Object hit the eye at high speed (such as from a lawn mower)
  • Sharp object hit the eye (e.g., a metallic chip or flying glass)
  • Skin is split open or gaping and may need stitches
  • Any cut on the eyelid or eyeball
  • Black eyes bilaterally (on both sides)
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think you need to be seen
  • Large swelling or bruise (wider than 2 inches) at the site of the injury
  • Eyelids swollen shut
  • No tetanus booster in more than 10 years (5 years for dirty cuts and scrapes)
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Pain has not improved after 3 days
Self Care at Home If
  • Minor eye injury and you don't think you need to be seen

  1. Treatment of Superficial Cuts and Scrapes (abrasions) to Eyelid or Area around Eye:
    • Apply direct pressure with a sterile gauze or clean cloth for 10 minutes to stop any bleeding.
    • Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes (Protect the eye with a clean cloth).
    • Apply an antibiotic ointment. Cover large scrapes with a Band-Aid or dressing. Change daily.
  2. Treatment of Swelling or Bruise with Intact Skin:
    • Apply an ice pack to the area for 20 minutes each hour for 4 consecutive hours.
    • 48 hours after the injury, use local heat for 10 minutes 3 times each day to help reabsorb the blood.
  3. Treatment of Subconjunctival Hemorrhage (flame-shaped bruise of the white area of eyeball): No specific treatment is required. It usually goes away in 2-3 weeks.
  4. Pain Medication:
    • For pain relief, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
    • Acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol): The dose is 650 mg by mouth every 4 hours or 1000 mg by mouth every 6 hours. Maximum dose per day = 4000 mg.
    • Ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin, Advil): The dose is 400 mg by mouth every 6 hours or 600 mg by mouth every 8 hours.
    • People who are over 65 Years of age: Acetaminophen is generally considered safer than ibuprofen. Acetaminophen dosing interval should be increased to every 8 hours because of reduced liver metabolism. Maximum dose per day = 3000 mg.
    • CAUTION: Do not take ibuprofen if you have stomach problems, kidney disease, are pregnant, or have been told by your doctor to avoid this type of anti-inflammatory drug. Do not take ibuprofen for more than 7 days without consulting your doctor.
    • CAUTION: Do not take acetaminophen if you have liver disease.
    • Read the package instructions thoroughly on all medications that you take.
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Pain becomes severe
    • Pain does not improve after 3 days
    • Changes in vision
    • You become worse

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

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: David A. Thompson, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 1/19/2009

Last Revised: 4/5/2008

Content Set: Adult HouseCalls Online

Portions Copyright 2000-2009 Self Care Decisions LLC; Copyright LMS, Inc.

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