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

This learning module has been accredited by the Royal College of Nursing and was last updated in 2016.

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

Duration: 01:00:00 Type: How to modules Level: Qualified Nurses


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

Short description

Read this module and update your knowledge and skills on how to care for a patient’s eyes in critical care settings.

Detailed description

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 module aims to assist healthcare practitioners 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 (GCS) score depend on healthcare practitioners 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.