How to care for a patient’s eyes in critical care settings
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How to care for a patient’s eyes in critical care settings

Janet Marsden Professor of ophthalmology and emergency care, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, England
Richard Davies Critical care nursing officer, Ministry of Defence, London, England

Rationale and key points

Eye care is an important aspect of the nursing management of patients who are critically ill. All patients in acute care settings with absent or compromised eye defence mechanisms are at risk of eye complications and ocular surface disease. This article aims to assist nurses to care for the eyes of patients in critical care settings to enable early detection and routine management of ophthalmic issues, thereby avoiding visual compromise on patient discharge from critical care settings.

Corneal exposure is reported to occur in many patients who are critically ill.

Incomplete eyelid closure and lack of lubrication are the main mechanisms that underlie the development of corneal damage in patients who are critically ill.

Unconscious, sedated and/or paralysed patients and those with a reduced Glasgow Coma Scale score depend on healthcare professionals to maintain their ocular surface to prevent complications such as corneal abrasion, infection and ulceration, perforations and blindness.

Meticulous nursing care is required to prevent ophthalmic complications that can result from corneal exposure in this patient group. Regular, evidence-based eye care should be part of routine nursing practice for patients who are critically ill.

Reflective activity

‘How to’ articles can help you update your practice and ensure it remains evidence-based. Apply this article to your practice. Reflect on and write a short account of:

How this article might change your practice?

How you could use this resource to educate your colleagues in eye care of the unconscious patient?

Nursing Standard. 31, 16-18, 42-45. doi: 10.7748/ns.2016.e10571


Peer review

All articles are subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 24 May 2016

Accepted: 24 August 2016

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