Pediatric Ocular Trauma

What is Pediatric Ocular Trauma?

Pediatric ocular trauma is any injury to a child's eye. Damages to the eyeball, eyelid or bones around the eye are all examples of pediatric ocular trauma. Eye trauma in children accounts for 7% of all physical injuries and between 10 and 15% of all eye diseases in kids.

What are the different types of Pediatric Ocular Trauma?

Injuries may be the result of blunt, penetrating or chemical traumas.

Blunt trauma

Blunt trauma occurs when something such as a fist, elbow or ball strikes the eye.

Penetrating trauma

Penetrating trauma is the result of an object such as a pencil, stick or projectile entering the eye itself.

Chemical trauma

Chemical trauma can happen when harsh liquids such as household cleaners or chlorine damage a child's eye.

Several eye injuries can threaten your child's vision and need immediate treatment. These include:

  • A foreign body in the eyeball or cornea
  • A ruptured globe (usually from fireworks or explosives)
  • Burns on the cornea (most often from chemicals)
  • Blood in the anterior chamber of the eye (hyphema)
  • Detached retina
  • Infections on the cornea (from contact lenses)

How is Pediatric Ocular Trauma diagnosed?

If your child has had an eye trauma, first determine the cause. Blunt traumas may not need treatment, while perforations or chemical injuries often require immediate care. If your child is complaining of pain or vision problems following an eye injury, see a doctor.

Your child's doctor will usually ask you the following questions, depending on the type of injury:

  • Does your child wear contact lenses for extended periods of time?
  • Was your child near any chemicals or tools that could result in projectiles (such as a lawn mower or certain power tools)?
  • Has there been any discharge from the eye?
  • What, if any, types of first aid have you administered?

Your pediatrician may refer your child to an ophthalmologist to perform a physical exam. The ophthalmologist will examine your child’s eye using one or more of the following tests:

Seidel's test

The doctor places a fluorescein-moistened strip over the affected area to see if there is an open globe injury.

pH test

In the case of a chemical trauma, the ophthalmologist may perform a pH test. The doctor will irrigate the eye with saline and then use litmus paper to check the eye's pH against a healthy control.

Eye shield

If the doctor suspects a globe injury, he may apply a rigid shield over the eye ahead of treatment. 

What are the causes of Pediatric Ocular Trauma?

Pediatric eye trauma usually happens during play or at school. Kids who play sports are at particular risk and should wear protective goggles or masks during both practice and games. Volunteer eye health and safety organization, Prevent Blindness America, estimates that 90% of eye injuries in sports can be prevented if athletes wear protective eyewear. Other causes of eye trauma in kids include fireworks, unsafe storage of chemicals and accidents.

How is Pediatric Ocular Trauma treated?

If your child has any type of eye injury, you should see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible. Eye injuries are a leading cause of vision impairment in kids, so early treatment can save your child's sight. Often, frequent examinations will be needed until the eye is completely healed.

Treatment will depend on the type and severity of the eye injury:

Lacerations to the eyelid

Lacerations to the eyelid can result in damage to the tear ducts and other eye structures. They are typically treated using microsurgery.

Scratches on the cornea

Scratches on the cornea (the surface of the eye) may be treated with antibiotic eye drops or patching.

Deeper lacerations

Deeper lacerations (such as with a stick or glass) put a child at risk for permanent vision loss. They need immediate attention and, most often, surgery.


Fractures to the bones surrounding the eye usually require surgery to repair the damage and to prevent complications, including vision loss.


Bleeding caused by blunt traumas can increase pressure in the eye. An ophthalmologist will determine the best course of treatment.


Chemicals or other harmful substances in the eyes need to be immediately flushed out with water. You should see a doctor or visit an emergency room promptly. Bring a sample of the solution with you so the doctor can decide on the best treatment for your child.

What is the prognosis of Pediatric Ocular Trauma?

If an eye injury is superficial, your child has a good chance of a full recovery. Most small foreign bodies that don't cause infection won't threaten a child's vision either. More serious injuries (such as damage to the globe) can result in complications, including glaucoma or retinal damage, down the road. Eye injuries in younger kids (10 and under) can be more complicated because their visual systems are still developing. The best treatment for eye injuries in children is prevention.

Pediatric Ocular Trauma Doctors and Providers

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How common are eye injuries in kids?

    Pediatric ocular trauma is very common. Eye injuries are responsible for 7% of all injuries in children and are the second leading cause of vision loss.

  • How can I prevent my child from sustaining an eye injury?

    Protective eyewear can prevent up to 90% of eye injuries incurred while playing sports. Make sure you keep dangerous or unsafe chemicals and liquids locked up or out of reach of children.