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Eye injuries vary from something very minor, such as getting shampoo in your eye, to something quite serious, such as a cut, which could cause permanent loss of vision.

This leaflet is created from first aid advice provided by St John Ambulance, the nation's leading first aid charity. This advice is no substitute for first aid training - find a training course near you.

Common types of eye injury include:

  • Foreign objects getting stuck in the eye, like an eyelash or pieces of grit, wood or metal.
  • Cuts or grazes, from sharp objects like glass or metal.
  • Severe blows to the eye, from a hard object, like a ball.

Foreign objects like grit, or a loose eyelash, often land on the surface of the eye. Usually you can easily rinse these out but sharp fragments like grit, metal or glass may cut the eye in which case the person should go to hospital.

All eye injuries are potentially serious because they could damage the person's vision. Even grazes to the surface of the eye, called the cornea, can lead to scarring or infection, which could permanently damage someone's vision.

Dr Sarah Jarvis MBE

The five key things to look for are:

  1. Pain in the eye or eyelid.
  2. A visible wound or bloodshot appearance.
  3. Partial or total loss of vision.
  4. Blood or a clear fluid leaking from a wound.
  5. Screwed up eyelids and watering if there's something in there.

If you notice these symptoms then you need to take action to prevent further damage.

Tell them not to rub it as this could make it worse.

If you think they might have something in their eye

  • Ask them to sit down facing a light.
  • Gently open their eyelids with your thumbs and ask them to look right, left, up and down as you look closely at the eye.
  • If you can see something in there, wash it out by pouring clean water over the inner corner of the eye.
  • If this doesn't work or the eye still hurts, send or take them to hospital.

If you think their eye may be bruised or cut

  • Help them to lie on their back and hold their head to keep it as still as possible.
  • Tell them to keep both eyes still, as moving their good eye will also move the 'bad' eye, which could make it worse.
  • Give them a sterile dressing, or a clean non-fluffy pad to hold over their 'bad' eye.
  • If it will be a while before you can get medical help, then you can hold the pad in place with a bandage.
  • Now take or send them to hospital.

Note: these hints are no substitute for thorough knowledge of first aid. St John Ambulance holds first aid courses throughout the country.

Adapted from the St John Ambulance leaflet: eye injuries. Copyright for this leaflet is with St John Ambulance.