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Can My Eye Really Fall Out?

It was big Olympic news.  A long distance swimmer was accidentally struck in the eye by a competitor’s arm or elbow during a swim competition.  He immediately “went blind” and thought “his eye had been knocked out.”  Bad news for this Olympian-he had sustained blunt trauma to the globe and orbit.  Good news for this guy-there is almost no physical way his eye could fall out.  I have heard post cataract surgery patients swear that their past doctor took their eye out, removed the cataract and then put the eye back in.  Good news for them…they had a cataract removed from inside the eye, replaced by an implant, yet did not have their entire eye removed.

This begs the question.  If I am hit in the eye, can my eye really fall out?  The answer is theoretically, yes, but practically, no!

The eyeball (globe) is connected in the socket very firmly by many muscles, connective tissue, tendons and the optic nerve.  Each of these structures are so tightly connected to the globe that to disengage the eyeball would mean catastrophic trauma that crushes the face, head, skull and more often than not would result in devastating injury or death for the patient.  Trauma does occur to the eye, and we treat this all the time in our offices.  It can result from racquetballs, fists, motor vehicle accidents, chair and table legs or any number of other possible causes.  Fortunately, the soft globe (eyeball) is well designed and protected by the bony orbit surrounding it.  Ever get a black eye?  The bruising and swelling around the eye is evidence that the protective bones surrounding the eye socket took most of the blow.

In some cases the eyeball itself receives a blunt concussive blow and this coup/contra coup force can cause damage inside the eye.  When this occurs, we look for lacerations, torn or dislodged structures, blood inside the eye (hyphema) or retinal problems (swelling, hemorrhage or detachment.)  We can even see dislodged or damaged eye muscles, stretched optic nerves and any number of other visually threatening sequelae.

We are here to treat whatever traumatic insult affects your eye, whether abrasions, inflammation, hemorrhage, glaucoma, lens or retinal problems.  We have a doctor on call 24/7/365 for those and other reasons.

If you sustain a blow to the eye, it is best to let your eye doctor evaluate, diagnose and advise you of the best treatment to preserve or improve your comfort and vision.  Yet be assured, even if it feels like someone knocked your eye out, it will still be inside your head…and you do not have to worry about it falling out!

Dr. Keg

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