Eye injuries can happen at home, at work or when playing sports. Most of these injuries are preventable, but others, such as irritation from dust or dirt in the environment, may be unexpected. Any eye injury carries the risk for permanent damage and should be examined as soon as possible.
The most common injuries to the eye include:
If you experience trauma or irritation that leads to an injured eye, call your eye doctor and tell him or her if you have one or more of the following symptoms:
Your eye doctor will likely advise you to make an appointment or, if the injury is serious, visit an urgent care center for immediate attention.
Action must be taken immediately following an eye injury to prevent complications. Avoid touching, rubbing or pressing on the affected eye. Flush out chemicals with clean water, and don’t apply any kind of cream or ointment. Instead, cover the injured eye with a sterile bandage until you can see a doctor. If you have a bruised eye that is swelling, apply an ice pack for 15 minutes at a time three to four times throughout the day. Keep your head elevated to minimize further swelling. Symptoms that don’t abate within 24 hours should be evaluated by a doctor.
You can prevent eye injuries by wearing protective goggles or glasses when working with dangerous materials, being careful in the kitchen, using caution while cleaning and following proper safety procedures on the job.
A foreign body is defined as anything lodged in the human body but doesn’t belong there. Objects may be introduced deliberately or by accident. Foreign bodies are commonly found in the eyes, ears and nose.
Wash your hands before attempting to remove a foreign body from your own or someone else’s eye. Examine the eye area to determine where the object is stuck. Use warm water to flush the object from the eye. Never rub affected eyes or attempt to pull out anything embedded in the eye surface or lid.
Unusual objects are more often found in the ears of children than adults. Kids may put things in their ears out of curiosity and subsequently be unable to remove them. If you can see the object, you may be able to dislodge it carefully with tweezers. Never stick a cotton swab or other tool down into the ear canal, as this may drive the object deeper.
Kids also have a tendency to place objects up their noses. As with foreign bodies in the ear, you can attempt to remove visible objects using tweezers. Having your child blow out gently through his or her nose may also be effective. Anything lodged more deeply may require a visit to the doctor to be removed using suction. Never attempt to pull out a sharp or otherwise dangerous object by yourself.
The most common symptom of having a foreign object stuck in the body is discomfort or pain. Other symptoms vary depending on the location of the object:
• Nasal drainage
• Abnormal vision
• Difficulty breathing
• Persistent pain after foreign body removal
Objects lodged in sensitive areas may cause damage if not properly addressed, and foreign body removal shouldn’t be attempted if the object is stuck deeply or is in an unusual location. Foreign bodies that are blocking airways require immediate medical attention at an emergency room or urgent care center. Objects that become stuck as the result of accidents or trauma should also be examined by a doctor due to the potential for other associated injuries.
Broken bones are called fractures and can occur in any bone of the body that suffers trauma. The average person experiences two fractures in his or her lifetime, and the injuries are most common among children. The elderly are also at high risk due to decreased bone density and greater instances of falling.
Identifying Fracture Types
Fractures fall into one of four major categories:
• Displaced – Bones break into two or more misaligned parts
• Non-displaced – Bone cracks partially or completely through but remains aligned
• Open – Bone penetrates the skin
• Closed – Bone remains inside the body
Common fracture types within these categories include comminuted fractures, in which the bone is broken into multiple pieces; impacted fractures, where the ends of bones get crushed together; and thin cracks known as stress fractures. Pathologic fractures result from weakening of the bones caused by underlying diseases.
Broken bones can usually be identified by one or more of the following symptoms:
• Pain that worsens with movement or pressure
• Swollen or bruised area around the bone
• Visible deformity
• Visible protruding bone
• Muscle spasms
• Inability to move or use the injured area
However, not all fractures are accompanied by symptoms. In the case of stress fractures, for example, the initial discomfort may take days to become painful enough to indicate a broken bone.
Since fractures occur without warning, you may need to visit an urgent care center instead of your regular doctor. The physicians there will examine the area for swelling and skin damage before doing an Xray to determine the severity of the break. Some fractures require a CT scan, MRI or bone scan to be visible. These scans also reveal any associated damage to the surrounding tissue.
A splint may be applied until the initial swelling has subsided enough to put the broken bone in a cast. The cast is left on until the bone heals, although rehabilitation exercises are usually prescribed beforehand to prevent loss of function.
Fractures accompanied by loss of consciousness, heavy bleeding, visible bone protrusion or discoloration of the extremities should be treated in an emergency room immediately.
Sprains and strains produce similar symptoms but affect different types of connective tissue. A sprained ankle is the most common among these injuries. A sprained wrist, sprained knee and sprained thumb are also frequently seen, especially among athletes. Certain accidents or occupations may also lead to a sprained foot or sprained neck.
Sprain vs. Strain
Saying you sprained something means that a ligament, the tissue that connects bones at the joints, was stretched or torn. Sprains occur when a joint is stressed or twisted in an unnatural way and are sometimes accompanied by a popping sensation.
Strains are also stretches or tears, but these affect the tendons connecting muscle tissue to bones or the muscles themselves. Pulling or twisting is the main culprit behind strains and can occur during contact sports or when lifting heavy objects. Acute strains occur suddenly; chronic strains develop as the result of repeated use of one body part.
Symptoms of strains and sprains are similar and include:
• Limited movement
• Muscle spasms
Your symptoms will vary in intensity depending on how bad the injury is. The severity of sprained joints is diagnosed on a graded scale:
• Grade I: Stretched or slightly torn ligament with minimal effect on the joint
• Grade II: More severe than Grade I, but the ligament is still intact
• Grade III: Complete tear or rupture of the ligament with intense pain
Minor sprains and strains can be treated at home using the RICE method. Rest the affected area for 24 to 48 hours. During that time, apply an ice pack twice per hour for ten minutes at a time. Wrap the injury in an elastic bandage or compression sleeve, and keep it elevated above the level of your heart. Together, these steps reduce pain and swelling while promoting natural healing.
If you can’t move or put weight on the affected area or the pain doesn’t go away in two to three days, head to your local urgent care center. You may need an X-ray to rule out the possibility of a broken bone or other serious underlying damage.
Cuts and lacerations are caused by sharp objects and are usually the result of accidents. You may sustain this type of injury while performing your job, when cooking or if you fall down. Additional concerns for children include sharp edges of furniture that they may run into while playing.
Cuts are defined as separations of connective tissue and are characterized by smooth edges. Lacerations generally have a torn or jagged appearance. No skin is missing in either type of injury.
Symptoms of cuts and lacerations are similar and vary in intensity depending on the severity of the damage. Common symptoms include:
Very deep wounds should be checked by a doctor to determine if medical adhesives, tissue glues or stitches are necessary to facilitate healing. Your doctor may also test for nerve or muscle damage if a cut is severe.
The top priority in treating cuts and lacerations is to stop the bleeding if it doesn’t cease on its own. Wash your hands and apply a sterile cloth or bandage to the area. Use gentle, firm pressure and elevate the injury above heart level. If the bandage soaks through, put another one on top and continue applying pressure. Bleeding should stop in 15 minutes or less.
Cuts should also be rinsed with clear water and cleaned with mild soap. If dirt or debris remains inside, use sterilized tweezers to remove it. Apply antiseptic ointment and dress the wound with a clean bandage that completely covers the area. Change the dressing daily until a scab forms.
Seek medical treatment immediately for lacerations if:
The doctors at an urgent care center can care for the wound and take steps to facilitate healing. They can also determine if you need a tetanus booster to ward off potentially serious side effects.
Rapid Med offers immediate medical attention for nearly all conditions. Our experienced and knowledgeable staff is available to treat you seven days a week, with walk-ins always welcome. Because we retain board certified doctors on staff, we offer many of the same services provided at the ER at a fraction of the cost.
Our family physicians provide comprehensive primary health care. Our goal is to provide our patients with excellent, timely and comprehensive medical care in a friendly family practice environment with convenient extended hours. No appointments are necessary and patients may walk-in for medical care and treatment.