Your eye has some natural protection but does not have much in the way of a built-in defense against infection. There are few blood vessels in the eye so the eye does not heal as fast as other parts of the body. Your retina (one of many eye parts) is made up mostly of nerves, which do not re-grow if injured. Because of the lack of built-in defenses, the eye is more likely to suffer permanent damage from injury than for example, a finger.
Unfortunately, a cut caused by a foreign body or a burn caused by a chemical splash can open the eye up to a secondary type of injury.
This can be more dangerous to the eye’s health than the original cut or burn. This threat is infection.
We have all had an infected cut at one time or another. Remember how painful it was? Now think of an infection that involves your eye. In this case, it is not just the pain that is the concern, it is the damage done by the infection itself.
How do you reduce the likelihood of infection? First, take precautions to avoid injury. If you are smart, you wear proper eye protection whenever necessary. Without an open wound, the risk of infection drops dramatically. If you do get a foreign body in your eye, get medical attention as soon as possible. Do not wait until he next day. It’s not going to get better by itself. If you receive an irritation or burn, begin flushing the eye immediately with a sterile eye wash solution. The usual recommended flushing time is 15 to 30 minutes if the injury is caused by a chemical splash. If there is the danger of a chemical splash, read the first aid section of the label before using the product. You will need to remember the first aid information because if you do get splashed in the eye, you will not be in a position to begin reading at that point in time.
Tap water should be used only in an emergency. Tap water can contain chemicals and other impurities that may not harm you if you drink them, but can cause infection if poured in your eye’s wound. Sterile solutions are only sterile until the cap on the container is opened for the first time. For this reason, eyewash bottles should be used only once. If an eye wash is not sterile, you could be compounding your injury by using it. Don’t make this mistake. Keep eye wash bottles clean and sealed until needed. Once a bottle has been opened, throw it away. If you have an eyewash station in your facility, keep it clean with the nozzle covers in place until needed.
Eye injuries are bad enough by themselves. Don’t make a bad situation worse. The longer you delay treatment, the worse the situation becomes. Always get prompt attention. Cleanliness is the key.
Remember… prevent the eye injury by using appropriate personal protective equipment and you won’t need to worry about the potential of an eye infection.