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Common Eye Emergencies Explained Getty Images 1055656450

Common Eye Emergencies Explained

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Eye emergencies can be scary. Sudden changes to the outward appearance or internal functioning of this delicate organ can be both painful and frightening, especially if your symptoms are unfamiliar.

Some of the most common eye problems can include styes, basal cell carcinoma, and allergic conjunctivitis. Here’s what to look for, and what to do.


A stye is an inflammation or infection of the eyelid that appears as a small painful bump. It may hurt, but a stye is not a serious threat to your vision. If you think you are developing one, a good first step is to apply heat.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common cancer of the eyelid. It’s usually found on the lower lid because of sun exposure and can look like a flesh-colored mole or a pimple that does not go away. If you think you have basal cell carcinoma, make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately. When caught early, most basal cell carcinomas can be treated.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This is the second most common form of skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma has the ability to spread, so it needs to be treated and removed as soon as possible. It can look like a spreading growth on the eyelid that does not go away or broken skin near the eye that does not heal.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

Think of a subconjunctival hemorrhage as “the worst looking red-eye”. It may look bad, but in reality, it’s the least dangerous eye emergency. A subconjunctival hemorrhage behaves like a bruise and can last a little more than a week. Your eye doctor can help diagnose this condition.


A hyphema occurs when blood is not just in the white of the eye (red-eye) but inside the eye itself. This is a serious red flag and should be treated by a doctor immediately.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis is common in areas where there are lots of allergens in the air, like in southeast Louisiana. Look for small bumps on the inside of your eyelid

Viral Conjunctivitis

Viral conjunctivitis is the most contagious virus second to chickenpox. The main culprit for the spread is elevator buttons. Symptoms can include watery discharge from the eye, or irritation. A diagnosis can be provided by your eye care physician.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

Bacterial conjunctivitis requires an antibiotic, as it will not go away on its own. It typically involves both eyes, and symptoms can include red eye, discharge, and irritation.

Retinal Detachment

The retina is held in place by suction, and not by any sort of apparatus inside your eye. Warning signs of retinal detachment include the onset of flashing lights, floating spots, cobwebs in vision, or curtains settings. Post-cataract surgery patients are at an increased risk of retinal detachment.

If you are suffering from any of the eye problems above, or are unsure of your condition, call your eye doctor or visit a local urgent care center to receive a diagnosis and treatment.

Count on convenient urgent care when you need it. Find an Ochsner location near you.


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