Eye Injury

By David A. Thompson, M.D. 
March 22, 2017

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Eye Injury

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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

First Aid:

FIRST AID Advice for Bleeding:

  • Apply direct pressure to the entire wound with a clean cloth.

  • Try to avoid pressure on the eyeball.

FIRST AID Advice for Penetrating Object: If penetrating object still in place, don't remove it (Reason: removal could cause bleeding or more damage).

FIRST AID Advice for Shock: Lie down with feet elevated.


When to Call Your Doctor

call 911

Call 911 Now (you may need an ambulance) If

  • Knocked out (unconscious)

call now

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 within 24 hours

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 within 24 hours

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns

  • Pain has not improved after 3 days

home care

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 Medicines:

    • For pain relief, take acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen.

    Acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol):

    • Take 650 mg by mouth every 4-6 hours. Each Regular Strength Tylenol pill has 325 mg of acetaminophen.

    • Another choice is to take 1,000 mg every 8 hours. Each Extra Strength Tylenol pill has 500 mg of acetaminophen.

    • The most you should take each day is 3,000 mg.

    Ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin, Advil):

    • Take 400 mg by mouth every 6 hours.

    • Another choice is to take 600 mg by mouth every 8 hours.

    • Use the lowest amount that makes your pain feel better.

    Naproxen (e.g., Aleve):

    • Take 250-500 mg by mouth every 12 hours.

    • Use the lowest amount that makes your pain feel better.

    Extra Notes:

    • Acetaminophen is thought to be safer than ibuprofen or naproxen in people over 65 years old. Acetaminophen is in many OTC and prescription medicines. It might be in more than one medicine that you are taking. You need to be careful and not take an overdose. An acetaminophen overdose can hurt the liver.

    • Caution: Do not take acetaminophen if you have liver disease.

    • Caution: Do not take ibuprofen or naproxen if you have stomach problems, kidney disease, are pregnant, or have been told by your doctor to avoid this type of medicine. Do not take ibuprofen or naproxen for more than 7 days without consulting your doctor.

    • Before taking any medicine, read all the instructions on the package

  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.


March 22, 2017