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Eye Emergencies: Where to Go & When

October 22, 2020

The weather is finally changing in Colorado and we are nearing the snowstorms and cold temperatures that we call winter… AND also cold and flu season. With COVID-19 still surging through our nation, some experts are predicting that cases will increase through winter, which may mean that Colorado communities are again called on to reduce emergency room visits. We all know that emergencies will still happen so here is what to do in case of an eye emergency. 

First, call your eye doctor in Loveland, Dr. Van Amerongen at Van’s Eyecare. The 24-hour number is (970) 667-3445.

Symptoms That Need Immediate Attention 

  • Black spots or flashes of light
  • Curtain-like disappearance of vision
  • Injury/trauma to the eye 
  • Eye pain (pain is an indicator of inflammation or injury)
  • Seeing halos or rainbows around light
  • Loss of peripheral (side) vision
  • Sudden hazy or blurred vision
  • Sudden vision loss in one eye
  • Red, crusty or swollen eyelids
  • Pupils are of different sizes

Symptoms That Need an Eye Exam Soon

  • Blurred or double vision
  • Excessive tearing or watering of your eyes
  • Itchy, burning, or dry eyes
  • Difficulty seeing in dark environments
  • Seeing spots or ghost-like images
  • Light sensitivity
  • Eye strain and/or frequent mild headaches

Van’s Eyecare offers after-hours care and is a more appropriate place to care for your ocular emergency.  Call Dr. Van first to see if you should be seen by your optometrist or if your situation is better addressed in an emergency room or urgent care center. Dr. Van can give a referral.

“As we approach winter, it’s important for Colorado communities to understand how to access eye health care while reducing emergency room visits. This will be very important to free up hospital resources during the pandemic as we work to stay healthy and limit the virus spread,” says Dr. Tom Cruse, President of the Colorado Optometric Association’s Board of Directors.

If you are experiencing an eye emergency, call Dr. Van at (970) 667-3445.

Emergencies Your Eye Doctor Can Handle

Blunt Eye Trauma 

  • Apply a cold compress without putting pressure on the eye to reduce pain and swelling. 
  • Severe pain or reduced vision requires immediate care from an eye doctor.

Eye Cut, Puncture or Foreign Body to the Eye or Eyelid 

  • Do not attempt to remove an object from your eye or eyelid. 
  • Do not wash out the eye for punctures, cuts, or foreign bodies. 
  • Do not bandage the eye. 
  • Do not rub the eye.
  • Protect the eye with a rigid shield, like sunglasses or the bottom half of a paper cup, and see Dr. Van Amerongen immediately. Call (970) 667-3445.

Chemical Burn of the Eye

  • Flush eye(s) thoroughly with saline (preferably) or water for 15 minutes and get to an eye care professional immediately. Call Dr. Van’s 24-hour line.
  • For individuals with contact lenses, attempt to remove them first.
  • Do not try to neutralize the chemical with another chemical or substance.

Sudden Vision Changes or Loss
Address quickly with your optometrist to avoid permanent vision loss and rule out more serious health issues like stroke, nerve damage, neurological issues, and retinal or corneal defects. 

Red Eye

  • Red-eye with discharge needs to be examined by an optometrist as soon as possible for correct identification and treatment of the type of conjunctivitis (pink eye). Emergency rooms have a history of overprescribing antibiotics for conjunctivitis when 80% of cases are viral.
  • Red-eye could also indicate uveitis or ocular herpes, which can be sight-threatening, and make a quick and proper evaluation by an eye doctor important.

Pupils are Different Sizes (pupil anisocoria)

  • If you were born with this condition it is benign.
  • If this is a new symptom, whether it’s constant or sporadic, schedule an exam with your optometrist as soon as possible as this could be vision-threatening.

Remember, your professional eye doctor can treat an eye problem more effectively than an emergency room, especially during a pandemic.

Dr. Van’s 24-hour contact number is (970) 667-3445.

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