Collapse Eye Care

The following is a Survival Weekly exclusive! It is an excerpt from the upcoming book The Doom and Bloom(tm) Survival Medicine Handbook by Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy. The book is due out in early 2012 and you can rest assured it will receive a full review here on Survival Weekly.


Ask anyone on the street which of the five senses they would least be willing to sacrifice. They probably will tell you that their vision is the sense they would most want to preserve. Human beings aren’t perfect, and one of our most common imperfections is that of being nearsighted (also known as myopia) or farsighted (also known as hyperopia).

Most of us correct our eye issues with eyeglasses or contact lenses. In a collapse setting, these vision aids become more precious than gold, but most people haven’t made provision for multiple replacement pairs of contact lenses or spare eyeglasses. Having a few pairs of reading glasses would be useful as well, as everyone reaches an age when eyesight naturally changes.

Also, many of us with perfect vision will be negligent about wearing eye protection when they chop wood or other chores likely to be part of normal off-grid living. Without eye protection, the risk of injury when performing strenuous tasks will be much higher.

It is of paramount importance to stockpile multiple pairs of eyeglasses even if you currently only use contact lenses at present. Let’s face it, there will be a limited supply of contacts in a collapse situation, and one day you will have to throw away your last pair. Your current eyeglasses will eventually fall apart or become scratched beyond repair, and the last thing you will want is to not be able to see.

Early in this book, I mentioned that you should deal with your medical issues BEFORE a societal collapse occurs. Bad eyesight might be one of those issues. One option you may not have considered is having your eyesight corrected to 20/20 with LASIK surgery. Lasik surgery uses pinpoint lasers to change the shape of your retina so that you are less nearsighted or farsighted. It has been routinely available for years now, and is one of the safest surgical procedures in existence.

The LASIK procedure for both eyes takes less than ten minutes from beginning to end, and the actual laser surgery usually takes less than 20 seconds for each eye. You will be able to see immediately, and there is usually no downtime.

At most, you might feel the sensation of a grain of sand in your eye for a few days. The procedure isn’t cheap, but where else can you get such a tangible benefit (perfect vision) from your investment? I, myself, have had this procedure and recommend it highly to those with vision problems.

If you have perfect vision already, you should have a stockpile of eye protection glasses which you should use regularly when you perform any chore that has a remote possibility of injuring your eyes. Even if you are just taking a hike outdoors, sunglasses should also be a standard item. Ultraviolet (UV) light causes, over time, damage to the retinal cells which can lead to a clouding over of your eye’s lenses (also called “cataracts”). This condition can only be repaired by surgery that will not be available in a collapse. Protection from ultraviolet (UV) light will help prevent long-term damage.

In cold weather conditions, failure to use sunglasses can cause a type of vision loss known as snow blindness. Snow blindness is painful and dangerous in the wilderness, but usually will go away on its own with eye patching. The truth of the matter is that, whenever you are doing chores or are outdoors, you should ask yourself why you SHOULDN’T have on your eye protection!

There are various eye conditions that will be more common in a grid-down situation. The most common will be conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is an inflammation which causes the affected eye to become red and itchy, and many times will cause a milky discharge (see photo at the beginning of this section). It can be caused by chemical irritation (soap in your eyes, for example), a foreign body, an allergy, or an infection.

This infection is also called “Pinkeye” and is highly contagious among children due to their rubbing their eyes and then touching other people or items. Irritated red eyes with tears may also be seen in allergic reactions, which can be treated with antihistamines orally or anti-histamine eye drops. Eye allergies can be differentiated from eye infections; they are less likely to have a milky discharge associated with them.

To avoid spreading the germs that can cause eye infections:

• Don’t share eye drops with others.

• Don’t touch the tip of a bottle of eye drops with your hands or your eyes because that can contaminate it with germs. Keep the bottle 3 inches above your eye.

• Don’t share eye makeup with others.

• Never put contact lenses in your mouth to wet them. Many bacteria and viruses — maybe even the virus that causes cold sores — are present in your mouth and could easily spread to your eyes.

• Change your contacts often, the longer they stay in your eyes, the more chance you eye can get infected or even develop corneal ulcers.

• Wash your hands regularly.

• Any time you have an eye examination, ask the doctor if he/she has any samples of medicated eye drops to give you, in case of emergency.

Antibiotics like Doxycycline 100mg twice a day for a week (or less if improved) will relieve infectious conjunctivitis. Herbal treatment may also be of benefit. To treat pinkeye using natural products, pick one or more of the following methods:

• Apply a wet Chamomile or Goldenseal tea bag to the closed, affected eye, for 10 minutes, every two hours.

• Make a strong chamomile or Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) tea, let cool and use the liquid as an eyewash (using an eyecup) three to four times daily. Alternatively,

• Use 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 2 cups of cool water as an eyewash solution

• Dissolve 1 tablespoon of honey in 1 cup hot water; let cool and use as an eyewash.

Using the above tea, baking soda liquid or honey solution, on gauze or cloth, apply a compress to affected eye for 10 minutes, every two hours. For relief from the discomfort of conjunctivitis, a slice of cucumber over the eyes will be effective due to its cooling action.

The other common issue we can expect in a survival situation would be injuries to the eye from an embedded object. This risk is minimized with eye protection, but it is likely you will come upon this kind of injury at one point or another. The most important thing to do when anyone presents to you with eye pain is a careful examination. A foreign object is the most likely cause of the problem, and it’s up to you to find it.

Use a moist cotton swab (Q-tip) to lift and evert the eyelid. This will allow you to effectively examine the area. Use a large amount of water as irrigation to flush out the foreign object, or touch it lightly with the Q-tip to dislodge it. After assuring that there is no foreign object still present, look at the cornea (the area covering the colored portion of the eye). You may see what appears to be a scratched area. This is called an abrasion. The patient will probably relate to you that they feel as if there’s a grain of sand in their eye. After cleaning the eye out with water and using antibiotic eye drops (if available), cover the closed eye with an eye pad and tape. Ibuprofen is useful for pain relief. Over the next few days, the eye should heal.

Another common eye issue is called a “sty”. A sty is essentially a pimple which has formed on the eyelid. It causes redness and some swelling and is generally uncomfortable. Warm moist compresses are helpful in allowing the sty to drain. Using antibiotic eye drops (brand name Tobradex) will prevent worsening of this infection, which will usually resolve over the next few days. Oral antibiotics will also work. Use Doxycycline 100mg twice a day for several days. For natural alternatives, use any of the treatments used for “pinkeye”.

Occasionally, blunt trauma to the eye or even simple actions like coughing or sneezing may cause a patch of blood to appear in the white of the eye. This is called a subconjunctival hemorrhage or “hyphema”, and certainly can be alarming to the patient. Luckily, this type of hemorrhage is not dangerous, and will go away on its own without any treatment. However, loss of vision with areas of bleeding after blunt trauma IS cause for concern, and should be evaluated as described above. Additionally, the patient should be kept with the head elevated, to allow any blood to drain to the lower part of the eye chamber. This may help preserve vision.

Dr. Bones