Eye Emergency

Eye emergencies happen. We're here to help.

Our eyes are delicate, and even a seemingly minor problem can permanently compromise your vision. If you experience any of the following, please get medical help asap:

  • Eye pain

  • Sudden loss of vision

  • A foreign object in your eye

  • Sudden onset of flashes or floaters

  • Swelling around your eye

  • Corneal Abrasion - a scratch on the surface of your eye

  • Significant discharge from your eye

If you are experiencing an eye emergency, please call our office at 

403-454-5880 

and we will do our best to get you in the same day. Alberta Health Care covers these medically necessary visits.

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FAQs

1. Can I go to the emergency room for eye problems?

If you have a red, painful eye with discharge, sudden blurry vision that lasts more than 30 minutes, increased floaters, flashing lights, or a curtain/veil over your vision, then the best you can do is find your local optometrist. They are your best friends when it comes to seeing you in a timely manner and help you avoid waiting 2-3 hours at the Emergency Department at a hospital. The bonus part of seeing your optometrist is that medical eye emergencies are covered by Alberta Health Care, so bring your card with you to your visit.

 

While some people will choose to go to the nearest emergency room for their eye emergency, research shows that most emergency room visits for eye emergencies could have been treated by a trained Optometrist. With the Coronavirus pandemic active, going to the hospital for an eye emergency is not the fastest or safest way to treat the problem. Our hospitals are overwhelmed and there’s a risk of exposing yourself unnecessarily. 

 

If you find yourself stranded with an eye emergency in the middle of the night, which is when these things tend to happen, then we recommend that people with an eye emergency go to Rockyview Hospital and look for the Eye Clinic department. Rockyview is the only hospital in Calgary that has an on-call ophthalmologist and trained staff to properly manage eye problems. If you end up going to another hospital or healthcare facility, then you will likely find yourself in the care of a general Emergency Room physician who sees all sorts of things, and may not be as experienced with managing the delicate and intricate eye. 

2. When should you seek an emergency eye?

 An eye emergency that’s worthy of getting a medical professional’s help includes 

  • sudden blurry vision that lasts for more than 30 minutes, 

  • Red eye

  • Painful eye

  • Discharge in the eye

  • Increased floaters in your vision

  • Flashing lights in the corner of your eye

  • Curtain or veil that appears to be blocking your peripheral vision

  • Chemical exposure to the eyes

  • Trauma to or near the eye

  • Bleeding of the eye

  • Blood in the white of the eye

  • Swelling or bulging of the eye

  • Vision loss or double vision

  • Pupils that are unequal in size

  • Increased light sensitivity (photophobia)

  • Severe burning, stinging, itching eyes

  • Scratched or cut eye or eyelid

  • Split or lost contact lenses in the eye

  • Foreign object stuck in the eye

 

If you have one or more of these symptoms, then we recommend you get your eyes checked as soon as you can.

3. Are optometrists covered by Alberta Health Services?

Services that are covered by Alberta Health Care include 

  • Medical eye emergencies

  • Diabetic dilated fundus exam and any associated retinal imaging

  • Certain oral medications that are associated with ocular side effects

  • Cataract assessment and postoperative follow ups

 

Testing covered by Alberta Health Care include

  • Visual acuity

  • Eye pressure measurement

  • Dilated pupil exam, if needed

  • Ocular health exam from front to back

  • Retinal photos, if needed

  • Retinal imaging, if needed

 

Hooray for living in Alberta! Our province is one of the best in Canada in terms of what Albertans get covered - your tax dollars do matter! Take advantage of your coverage as an Albertan citizen, and get your eyes checked by your optometrist.

 

Comprehensive eye exams, glasses prescriptions, contact lens prescriptions, and laser refractive surgery consultations are not included by Alberta Health Services. Most health benefits with vision coverage and/or Flexible Spending Accounts, General Spending Accounts, or Health Spending Accounts cover a portion or all eye exam, glasses, and contact lens related fees.

4. Is severe eye pain an emergency?

Yes, especially if your eye pain is associated with any or all of the following:

  • Your eye pain is unusually severe

  • Accompanied with a headache, fever or unusual sensitivity to light

  • Sudden change in vision

  • Experiencing nausea and/or vomiting

  • Caused by a foreign object or chemical splashed in your eye

  • Suddenly seeing halos around lights

  • Swelling in or around your eyes

  • Trouble moving your eye or are unable to keep it open

  • There’s blood or pus coming from your eyes

Seek medical attention if you have eye pain and you wear soft contact lenses, have a weakened immune system or your eye pain is not improving after 2-3 days of treatment.

 

Other causes of eye pain that are not considered immediate eye care that you can wait to call the next day include

  • Redness

  • Irritation caused by contact lenses

  • Mild discharge

  • Mild discomfort, pain, and swelling of your eyelid

 

If you have an eye emergency, and it’s after regular office hours, you may have no choice but to go to the emergency room. If you can catch the problem before offices close, though, it’s a much better idea to see an Optometrist. Emergency rooms don’t always have the right instruments for examining the eyes, and they might not have doctors or nurses who specialize in taking care of eyes. It’s usually better to skip waiting at the ER and go straight to an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

 

Even if it’s after hours, if you call your eye doctor there may be information available, either in a recorded message or through the doctors’ answering service, about where to seek emergency eye care. 

 

There are situations that warrant a trip to the emergency room. If your eye injury

  • Involves other areas of your body,

  • has been impaled, 

  • bleeding, or 

  • head trauma, 

 

then it’s wise to go to the ER. What you should never do is try to treat painful eye conditions on your own, without the guidance of a medical professional.

5. What Can I Do to Protect My Eyes From Injury?

There are things you can do to decrease your risk of eye injuries:

  • Wear protective eyewear when using power tools or engage in high-risk sporting activities. You’re at an increased risk any time you’re around flying objects, even if you’re not directly involved

  • Follow the directions carefully when working with chemicals or cleaning supplies.

  • Keep scissors, knives, and other sharp instruments away from young children. Teach older children how to use them safely and supervise them when they do.

  • Avoid letting your children play with projectile toys, such as darts or pellet guns.

  • Childproof your home by either removing or cushioning items with sharp edges.

  • Use caution when cooking with grease and oil.

  • Keep heated hair appliances, like curling irons and straightening tools, away from your eyes.

  • Keep your distance from amateur fireworks.

6. What Should I Do If I Have An Eye Emergency?

In any eye problem, our first word of advice is to AVOID

  • Rubbing your eye

  • Trying to remove any foreign objects either by yourself or from a untrained expert

  • Using tweezers in your eye

  • Using ointments or medications not prescribed by a medical professional

First Aid 101 for Common Eye Injuries

  1. Chemical Exposure

The best thing you can do immediately is flush your eye with saline solution, preferably, or water for 15-30 minutes. If a contact lens is in your eye, avoid removing your contact lens using your fingers. We recommend flushing your eye along with your contact lens to dislodge on it’s own. Contact lenses can absorb harmful chemicals against the cornea, causing unnecessary damage. 

 

The next step you should do is get emergency medical care promptly after flushing your eye. They can confirm the extent of any potential damage to your eye and prescribe medications to help ensure your eye heals properly.

 

We always recommend wearing protective eyewear and use caution when handling chemical products.

 

  1. Foreign Objects

We know that your first instinctual reflex is to rub your eye to get the foreign object out of your eye, but please heed our kind words of encouragement to NOT! Eye rubbing, especially when there’s a foreign object, will do more harm than good.

 

The steps to try and remove the annoying object by flushing your eye out. 

  1. Wash your hands with warm water and soap to prevent any contamination or infection.

  2. Flush your eye well with clean water or preferably saline solution, if available. 

  3. If the object is visible, and not embedded on the eye, you can try to gently wipe it away with a damp, clean washcloth.

  4. Use artificial tear eye drops to help rinse out the foreign body

 

When in doubt, may we suggest getting immediate medical help if these steps are not successful. 

 

  1. Hit to the Eye

To treat a bruised black eye, apply a cold compress to help reduce swelling. Use the cold compress for 5 to 10 minutes at a time, allowing the eye to rest in between use. A cold compress can be made by wrapping a bag of peas, or other soft frozen items, in a clean cloth.

We recommend avoiding using ice directly on the skin as it can harm and damage the tissue. 

The best method for cold compresses is using a device called I-Relief which you can find at Respect Eyecare in Inglewood. This device is great as a hot or cold compress.

 

  1. Cut or Puncture to the Eye

This type of injury always requires immediate medical care. We recommend you call to see us the same day and follow these steps to prevent any further injury:

  • Avoid removing the object embedded in the eye

  • Avoid washing the eye or eyelid

  • Try to protect the eye with a shield or eye patch for example 

 

Timing is everything when it comes to treating eye emergencies. The earlier you get your eyes treated, the less potential damage to your vision over the long term. Take action by getting in touch with your eye care crew at Respect Eyecare in Inglewood. 

 

Dr. Steven Hoang serves as Inglewood and Ramsay’s full-time dedicated Optometrist. He will treat any eye emergency you have or refer you to specialized eye care if needed.