Jeffrey H. Dover
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Atlanta Auto Accident and Medical Malpractice Attorney

The eyes are commonly injured in auto and truck wrecks.  This is especially true if a victim was not restrained by a seat belt or if an air bag deployed during the wreck.  Any accident victim with facial trauma should undergo a visual exam in the emergency room and follow-up with an ophthalmologist to rule out internal eye injury. If you notice any changes in your vision after an accident, even days or weeks later, be sure to mention it to your doctors.  Most eye injuries are self-limited, easy to diagnose and resolve with time.  Other injuries, such as a retinal hemorrhage or a torn retina, can initially cause subtle visual impairments, but they worsen over time.  Serious eye injuries resulting from auto and truck wrecks can include:

•    Hyphema: This is a result of trauma that causes bleeding in the anterior chamber of the interior of the eye. It represents a surgical emergency.  A bloody discoloration of the cornea, iris, and pupil opening is easily seen, and it can cause permanent blindness.

•    Orbital Fracture: This refers to a fracture of the bony structure of the cranium around the eyes i.e., the orbit. If the eye is displaced by the injury, either temporarily or permanently, it is called a blowout orbital fracture. It is often seen on a CT scan after an accident when fluid is seen beside or behind the eye.  Many orbital fractures will resolve without surgery, but if the muscles around the eye are damaged or the eye is displaced, surgery may be required.  Orbital fractures are quite painful and can result in difficulty in eye movement and coordination due to swollen tissue between the eye and the orbit. 

•    Extraocular muscle injury: Eye movements are coordinated by the large number of muscles that surround them. Severe trauma to the orbit, facial bones, or even a temporary displacement of the eye resulting from an accident can damage these muscles. 

•    Lacrimal duct injury: The eyes are lubricated by a number of glands that produce tears that drain down to the top of the nasal sinuses.  In severe trauma these ducts may be damaged, causing chronic dry eye and tendency toward eye infections.  

•    Retinal hemorrhage or torn retinas: Direct trauma to the eyes can cause the light receptors in the back of the eye to bleed and tear off underlying nerves.  Injuries of this type can be quite subtle and may only affect a small part of your visual field, particularly your peripheral vision.  The injury may not be immediately apparent, and may worsen over time.  If you notice subtle changes in your vision days to weeks after injury you may need an ophthalmologic exam and you may need to see a retinal specialist.  Bleeding and tears can be treated with laser surgery but usually result in some permanent visual impairment.

•    Optic nerve injury: Injuries to the nerves that exit the back of the eye and send signals your brain can be devastating.  An optical nerve injury can result from a temporary displacement of the eye or an orbital fracture, or it can result from an injury to the retinal artery or areas of the brain through which the nerve passes, or it can be caused by an injury directly to the back of the brain (occiput).  These injuries can cause a loss of part of your visual field in one or both eyes, or blindness in a single eye, depending on the location or the severity of the injury.  Surgery may be required, but damage to the optic nerve usually results in permanent visual impairment.

•    Eyelid lacerations: The eyelids have six layers of tissue that protect the eye but they can easily be injured by glass or eyewear during an auto or truck wreck.  These lacerations typically require surgical repair, but most can be sutured in the emergency room.  More serious lacerations that involve damage to all six layers should be repaired by an oculoplastic surgeon or a facial plastic surgeon.

If you suffered a serious eye injury as a result of a car or truck wreck, you should contact an experienced Alpharetta accident attorney.