Every year, more than 1 million people suffer from an eye injury, and many of those injuries could have been prevented with the use of appropriate protective eye wear. When dealing with a patient who has experienced an eye injury, it is important to look for signs of more serious injury that requires immediate medical attention. If a patient comes to your pharmacy asking questions about the best course of action, it is your job to educate them.
Treating Minor Injuries
The majority of minor eye injuries, such as: a cut on the eyelid, a black eye, burns to the eye, and minor cuts to the eye or areas around the eye can be treated at home.
Patients who present with a small cut on the eyelid should be instructed to find a clean, sterile bandage to protect the area. The patient must avoid any fluffy cotton bandages in this area, as the cotton may break apart and become stuck in the eye.
Patients can use non-chemical ice packs to reduce any swelling present around the eye. Chemical ice packs can leak, which could introduce irritants to the eye. Ice should be applied for no more than 15 minutes at a time, three to four times a day during the first 48 hours following the injury. After the swelling has gone down, apply warm compresses to help with pain. Patients may also use an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to address pain. Patients under the age of 20 should not use aspirin unless advised to do so by their doctor.
Foreign Bodies in the Eye
If a patient presents with a foreign body in the eye, make sure the patient does not rub the eye, as this can scratch the cornea. Contact lenses should be removed prior to attempting to flush the object. Patients should first attempt to flush out the object with water. When touching the eye, hands should be clean. No pressure should be applied at any point. Patients should not use objects like tweezers to attempt to remove material from the eye, as this can lead to further damage.
If a patient is unable to remove the foreign body with flushing alone, he or she should wear dark glasses and see a doctor immediately.
Symptoms to Look For While Monitoring Home Treatment
Before a patient leaves your pharmacy, make sure they know to watch for symptoms such as:
- Decreased, blurry, or double vision
- Pain worsens over time, even with appropriate treatments
- Blood development over the iris of the eye
- Signs of infection
- Sensitivity to light
If these symptoms occur, it’s time to see a doctor; As the pharmacist, be sure to let the patient know that.