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When Is Eye Pain an Emergency?

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A woman touching her left eye in discomfort as it is highlighted in red to symbolize the feeling of pain and irritation

If you are experiencing eye pain, we always recommend visiting us in person at Vivid Eye Care to discern whether the situation is cause for serious concern. Eye emergencies typically involve your eyes experiencing damage or distress which can result in a potential loss of vision without proper treatment. If you are experiencing what you think is an eye emergency due to symptoms of pain and irritation, contact us right away — our professional team will be able to get you the help you need.

What is an Eye Emergency?

An eye emergency describes when an external force or other factor causes distress or damage to your eye. Things like embedded foreign objects, chemical burns, eye trauma, and infections can all be considered common eye emergencies.

An eye doctor should be contacted immediately if you are currently experiencing an eye emergency — professional help will be required for treatment in almost all cases of eye emergencies.

Embedded Foreign Objects

Small objects and particles like sand, dust, and dirt are common irritants that are prone to entering your eyes and causing you discomfort. Typically, your eyes do not have any issue removing these objects through the process of blinking or creating tears — if you need some extra help, you can flush your eyes out with clean water.

Larger objects are more dangerous though — they can become embedded in your eye and cause serious damage if not treated properly and promptly. If a large foreign object has entered your eye, do not touch it or attempt to remove it. Instead, remain calm and visit your eye doctor immediately for treatment.

Chemicals Burns

Chemical burns are a serious eye emergency that should be treated immediately. Coming into contact with harmful liquids and gasses can have adverse effects on your vision if not treated properly. The severity of this eye emergency will depend on the pH concentration and the nature of the chemical.

Chemical injuries caused by an alkali are usually more detrimental and more common than injuries from an acid. After your eye has been exposed to a chemical, you may notice moderate to severe pain, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, and the sensation of a foreign body. If you are experiencing a chemical burn, you should:

  • Flush your eye with a gentle stream of cool tap water right away. Allow running water to flush your eye for 15 minutes.
  • If both of your eyes are affected, or if the chemicals covered other parts of the body, take a full body shower.
  • If you are wearing contact lenses and they did not flush out, try to remove the contacts after the flushing concludes.
  • Seek medical help from an eye doctor as soon as possible.

A worried mother and her son sitting on a couch while she uses an ice pack to try and stop the swelling of her sons black eye

Blunt Eye Trauma

A blunt impact to the eye or surrounding area can cause severe injury and affect functionality. Some things to keep in mind if you have been struck in the eye are:

  • Blunt trauma to the eye or face can cause bleeding under the skin that leads to a black eye. The abnormal colour disappears within 2 weeks.
  • Swelling of the eyelid and tissue around the eye can potentially occur. Sometimes, serious damage to the eye can occur from the pressure of a swollen eyelid or face.
  • Certain types of skull fractures can cause bruising around the eyes.
  • Common causes of trauma include being struck by fists, sporting equipment, and airbags.
  • Blunt trauma can cause a hyphema.

If you are experiencing injury from blunt eye trauma, use a cold compress to help stop any swelling and visit your eye doctor immediately.


Eye infections can be caused by many different things — to get a proper diagnosis it is imperative that you visit your eye doctor. By visiting Vivid Eye Care, you can quickly receive effective treatment for any eye infections. One of the most common eye infections we deal with is conjunctivitis, which can cause red or pink eyes.

Conjunctivitis causes inflammation and infection of the eye. This infection can be viral, bacterial, or caused by an allergic reaction — each type of conjunctivitis will require different treatment options to subdue symptoms, but all types will eventually disappear on their own with proper hygiene. In some severe cases, you will need to consult with your eye doctor about treatment methods including taking antibiotics or using eye drops.

Other Eye Emergencies

If you experience any of the following conditions, it may be beneficial to contact your eye doctor as soon as possible. Many of these emergencies can be treated quickly and effectively if diagnosed early enough. Some more general eye emergencies that may warrant an immediate visit to your eye doctor include:

  • Contact lens complications —  This includes corneal ulcers that develop from overwearing your contact lenses and/or sleeping with them still in your eye.
  • Eye abrasions and scratches — This emergency occurs when the surface of your eye gets scratched or cut by a foreign object.
  • Flash burn and snow blindness from UV exposure — These conditions occur when your eyes get overexposed to UV light. To prevent these conditions, make sure you are always wearing proper eyewear when in bright conditions.
  • Acute angle-closure glaucoma — This type of glaucoma occurs when the iris bulges forward and blocks the drainage angle formed by the cornea and iris. This will result in fluid being unable to circulate through the eye properly, thus increasing pressure.
  • Uveitis and optic neuritis — These conditions occur due to inflammation in the eye. This can potentially cause damage to different structures within the eye.
  • Migraine — If you are experiencing severe migraines that last a long time, it will be beneficial to consult with your eye doctor immediately about what treatments can be effective for your situation.
  • Sinusitis —  This condition will cause your sinuses to become inflamed and swollen; this can lead to problems with drainage.
  • Stye — If you have stye that has remained for a long time and it is still causing you pain, it is recommended that you visit your eye doctor for treatment as soon as possible.

Reducing the Risks of Eye Emergencies

To reduce the risk of eye emergencies you can get your eyes checked during a comprehensive eye exam at Vivid Eye Care. During an exam, our professional eye doctors will be able to assess your current eye health and discover any latent issues that could arise later as eye emergencies. Book an appointment with us to safeguard your ocular health.

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Cranston Market

Our Cranston Market clinic is part of the Cranston Market Clinic and is just 2 minutes off Deerfoot Trail near Stoney Trail SE. We’re located on Cranston Road SE, located in the same plaza as Sobeys and Scotiabank.

Our Address

  • 356 Cranston Road SE #1020
  • Calgary, AB T3M 0S9

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Meadows Mile

Our Meadows Mile clinic is located on the ground level of the Meadows Miles Professional Building facing Blackfoot Trail. We are just 2 minutes from Deerfoot and Glenmore Trail between Southland and Heritage Drives, up the hill from Ikea near the luxury car dealerships.

Our Address

  • 8500 Blackfoot Trl. SE, Unit 130
  • Calgary, AB T2J 7E1

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