Sight is one of the essential senses, but new research says that you are probably going to the emergency room too often for vision problems. In the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, researchers from John Hopkins University find that nearly 50% of visits to the ER for eye problems were non-emergency situations that would have been better addressed at your local pediatric ophthalmologist or urgent care center.

The research

The research, which tracked more than 12 million emergency room visits for eye-related injuries from 2006-2011, found that:

  •    54.2% of visits were by males (of any age)
  •    41.2% of visits were for emergency situations, including corneal abrasions (when the eye is scratched by a foreign body) and a foreign body in the external eye.
  •    44.3% of visits were for non-emergency situations like conjunctivitis, styes or subconjunctival hemorrhage.

For the remaining 14.5% of visits, it was not possible to determine whether the situation was an emergency or not. Emergency room visits for eye injuries and other emergent conditions were more likely to occur in males, patients in the highest income quartile, older patients, and patients with private health insurance.

The study concluded that having better interventions to treat these non-emergent conditions outside of the emergency room could make medical resources more available for actual emergencies.

The takeaway

The takeaway for you: If your child complains of eye pain, ask how it happened first. If a foreign body entered the eye and eye pain persists (regardless of whether the object is still there), you can call your children’s eye doctor in Livingston for a consultation, but it is likely worth going to the emergency room or urgent care center to ensure that the cornea is not further damaged. If nothing entered your child’s eye, but it is red and itchy or has what looks like a bloody spot in the white part, the best place to start is with a visit to a pediatric eye doctor or urgent care. This reduces not only your out-of-pocket costs but leaves the ER to address emergencies.


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