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Am Fam Physician. 2013 Oct 15;88(8):515-9.

Common eye emergencies.

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University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, CO, USA.


Ocular emergencies such as retinal detachments, mechanical globe injuries, and chemical injuries can cause permanent vision loss if they are not recognized and treated promptly. Family physicians should be familiar with the signs and symptoms associated with each condition, and be able to perform a basic eye examination to assess the situation. The assessment includes measurement of visual acuity, pupillary examination, visual field testing, slit lamp or penlight examination of the anterior segment of the eye, and direct funduscopic examination. Patients with symptomatic floaters and flashing lights require a dilated fundoscopic examination and prompt referral to an ophthalmologist for evaluation of a retinal tear or detachment. A globe laceration or rupture should be suspected in patients with a recent history of trauma from a blunt or penetrating object. Prophylactic oral antibiotics can be administered after a globe injury to prevent endophthalmitis, and the eye should be covered with a metal shield until evaluation by an ophthalmologist. Chemical injuries require immediate irrigation of the eye to neutralize the pH of the ocular surface.

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