What Is It?
The eye socket is a bony cup that surrounds and protects the eye. The rim of the socket is made of fairly thick bones, while the floor and nasal side of the socket is paper thin in many places. A fracture is a broken bone in the eye socket involving the rim, the floor or both.
Approximately 2.5 million traumatic eye injuries, including eye socket fractures, occur each year in the United States. About 85% of these injuries happen by accident, during contact sports, at work, in car crashes or while doing home repair projects. About 15% are caused by violent assaults. Men suffer from traumatic eye injuries about four times more often than women do. The average age of the injured person is about 30. The source of the injury is usually a blunt object -- baseball, hammer, rock, piece of lumber -- and the most frequent place of injury is the home. At one time, eye injuries were common in motor vehicle accidents, usually when a victim's face struck the dashboard. Such eye injuries have decreased dramatically because more cars have airbags, and most states have laws mandating the use of seat belts.
Symptoms vary, depending on the location and severity of the fracture, but can include:
If you are conscious and able to answer questions after your injury, your doctor will review your symptoms and ask how your eye injury occurred. He or she will examine your eye, and will gently touch and press on your cheek and forehead to check if these areas are distorted. The doctor also will check for:
In someone who is unconscious and has severe facial injuries, doctors can confirm the diagnosis of an eye socket fracture with X-rays and a CT scan of the eye socket bones. This is done after any life-threatening injuries have been addressed and the person's condition has stabilized.
How long the injury lasts depends on the location and severity of the fracture. In most cases, swelling and discoloration begin to go away within 7 to 10 days after the injury, but fractured bones take much longer to heal. If surgery is necessary to repair the injured area, your doctor may delay the procedure for several weeks to allow swelling to go away.
Almost all eye injuries can be prevented. To decrease your risk of fracturing your eye socket:
Treatment depends on the severity and location of your injury. For a small, uncomplicated blowout fracture that does not affect the movement of your eye, your doctor may prescribe ice packs, decongestants and an antibiotic to prevent infection. You may be told to rest for a few days and to avoid blowing your nose while the eye heals.
If the fracture is more severe, your doctor will refer you to a plastic and reconstructive surgeon who specializes in treating eye injuries. An ophthalmologist may be called in to deal with the double vision. This specialist will determine whether you need surgery to repair the broken bone. Surgery may be needed to:
When to Call a Professional
If you suffer a blow to your eye, apply cold packs to the injured area for at least 15 minutes to help reduce pain, swelling and discoloration. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of symptoms of an eye socket fracture.
Contact your doctor if you see flashing lights or "floaters" (spots or shadowy shapes) in your injured eye, or if you have a cut on your eyelid or on the inside surface of your eye.
In most cases, the outlook is very good. Even when surgery is needed to repair the fracture, most procedures have a high rate of success and a low risk of long-term complications.
National Eye Institute
2020 Vision Place
Bethesda, MD 20892-3655
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
P.O. Box 12233
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
American Academy of Ophthalmology
P.O. Box 7424
San Francisco, CA 94120-7424
American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
5841 Cedar Lake Rd.
Minneapolis, MN 55416
U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
200 Constitution Ave.
Washington, D.C. 20210
Prevent Blindness America
211 West Wacker Dr.
Chicago, IL 60606
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30333
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
141 Northwest Point Blvd.
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1098