Emergency Room, Urgent Care, or Standard Visit: Deciding Which Option Is Best For Your Eye Problem
If you’re dealing with eye pain or an eye injury, it’s vital to take your condition seriously. Left untreated, eye injuries and other vision conditions can lead to permanent damage and/or blindness. Here, we’ll explore how to decide what type of treatment makes the most sense for your acute eye problem.
If you’re managing a chronic vision condition that seems to be slowly getting worse, or you’re dealing with a non-vision-threatening condition that you’ve experienced before (like conjunctivitis with symptoms that are manageable and mimic issues you’ve had in the past), you’ll likely be fine getting a standard office visit. Never wait for your next regular vision checkup when you’re experiencing an eye condition. Call your eye doctor’s office right away, let them know you’re experiencing a problem, and schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
If your regular vision provider isn’t able to see you within a reasonable time frame, it’s a good idea to seek care elsewhere and then follow up with your regular eye doctor at a later time.
Eye conditions like allergies, a new case of conjunctivitis, a scratched eye due to a torn contact lens, or other non-vision threatening conditions can be treated at an urgent care facility. When you schedule an urgent care appointment, you’ll likely be able to be seen within 24 hours. At urgent care, you’ll see a doctor or nurse practitioner who is well-versed in treating acute issues. They’ll be able to recommend a course of treatment for your eye problem, and/or write you a prescription if necessary.
You’ll still need to schedule a follow-up appointment with your regular eye doctor after an urgent care visit. It’s a good idea to check with your insurance company before going to urgent care, as some insurance companies don’t cover this service, or only cover a certain number of visits per year.
Emergency Room Care
When in doubt, head to the emergency room. If you have an eye injury, sudden loss of vision, swelling, pain in your eye(s), or bleeding from the eye(s), you must get emergency care right away. When you get to the emergency room, a nurse or other healthcare professional will triage your injury, and you’ll be scheduled to see a treatment provider based on the severity of your issue.
While you’re in the emergency room waiting area, it’s a good idea to give your normal eye doctor a call to let them know what’s going on. They’ll be able to follow up with you later and may reach out to the emergency room treatment team with specific treatment instructions based on your vision health history.
When you have an eye problem, always err on the side of caution. Don’t try to treat vision issues at home unless you’ve been directed to do so by an eye care professional, and always reach out to your eye doctor with questions.