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What happens if your eye pops out?

Having an eye pop out of the socket is a rare but serious medical emergency that requires immediate treatment to preserve vision. Here are some quick answers about what causes eye pop outs and what to do if it happens to you or someone else.

What causes an eye to pop out?

There are a few potential causes of an eye popping out of the socket (also called globe luxation or ocular prolapse):

  • Facial trauma from an injury, assault, or accident can lead to enough force on the eye to make it pop out.
  • Increased pressure in the eye (glaucoma) can gradually push the eye forward.
  • Weakness of the eye muscles or ligaments due to aging, medical conditions like floppy eyelid syndrome, or genetic disorders like Marfan syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
  • Tumors behind the eye.
  • Previous eye surgery that disrupted eye anatomy.

What are the symptoms of an eye popping out?

Symptoms of an eye popping out of the socket include:

  • Seeing the eyeball protruding from the socket.
  • Severe eye pain.
  • Inability to move the eye normally.
  • Vision loss or blurred vision in the affected eye.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Bloody discharge coming from the eye.

Having an eye pop out is an ophthalmological emergency. The protruding eye is highly vulnerable to injuries and blindness. That’s why immediate emergency medical care is critical.

What to do if someone’s eye pops out

If you witness an eye protruding from its socket, these are important first aid steps while waiting for emergency care:

  • Don’t push the eye back in – That could damage it further and make the situation worse.
  • Gently cover the eye with a cup or eye shield – This protects the eye from direct trauma or drying out before getting medical care.
  • Limit movement of the head and eye – Stabilize the head with your hands or soft padding to avoid jostling the injured eye.
  • Get emergency help immediately – Call 911 or emergency services right away. An ophthalmological emergency room is best equipped to treat an eye pop out.

While waiting for help, keep the person lying flat and reassure them. Do not give them anything to eat or drink. Applying a cold compress around the eye can help reduce swelling.

How do doctors treat a protruding eye?

Doctors treat a protruding eye as an urgent surgery. The goals are to:

  • Protect the eye from further damage
  • Clean and repair any injured eye structures
  • Replace the eye in the socket

Treatments steps typically include:

  • CT scan – Helps detect any eye or orbital fractures needing repair.
  • IV antibiotics – Prevents infection which could quickly cause blindness.
  • Surgery to reposition the eye – The ophthalmologist will gently maneuver the eye back into place and stitch the eyelids closed.
  • Follow-up care – Includes prescription eye drops, compression bandaging, and rest. Additional surgeries may be needed to reconstruct damaged eye anatomy.

When treated quickly, an eye can often be saved and regain function after protruding. But the longer it remains out of the socket, the poorer the prognosis. Permanent vision loss is possible if the optic nerve or retina are badly damaged or blood flow is reduced for too long.

Are there ways to prevent an eye from popping out?

Some preventative measures may help reduce the risk of eye pop out, depending on the cause:

  • Wear protective goggles during activities with risk of facial trauma.
  • Get regular eye exams to check for glaucoma.
  • Treat conditions like floppy eyelid syndrome that make the eye unstable.
  • Have early removal of tumors behind the eyeball.
  • Avoid vigorous eye rubbing, which stresses the ocular muscles.

However, some causes like connective tissue disorders and injuries can’t always be prevented. Seeking prompt treatment for any eye problems or changes is key to help avoid a protrusion.

Can an eye pop back out after treatment?

It’s possible for an eye to pop back out again (recur) after being repaired, but unlikely if the initial treatment was successful. Recurrence may happen if:

  • The eye muscles or ligaments remained too weak to hold the eye in place.
  • Infection caused ongoing orbital inflammation and pressure.
  • Scarring from surgeries didn’t properly reconstruct eye anatomy.
  • A tumor continued growing behind the eye.

To prevent recurrence, the ophthalmologist may recommend follow-up measures like:

  • Additional surgeries to tighten the orbital connective tissue.
  • Eye muscle strengthening exercises.
  • Careful monitoring for underlying conditions or tumor regrowth.
  • Protective eyewear to shield against re-injury.


Having an eye pop out of its socket is a rare but alarming injury. Quick first aid and urgent medical care is vital to protect the eye and preserve vision. While an eye protrusion can often be successfully treated and repaired if addressed immediately, the potential for permanent damage and blindness always exists. That’s why prevention and prompt treatment of any predisposing conditions is so important.

Cause Symptoms First Aid Treatments
Facial trauma Eye protruding from socket, pain, vision issues, bloody discharge Protect eye, don’t push it back in, get emergency help CT scan, antibiotics, surgery to reposition eye, rest and eye drops
Increased eye pressure Gradual protrusion, eye pain Protect eye, get emergency care Medications to reduce pressure, surgery
Weak eye muscles/ligaments Protruding eye, difficulty moving eye Protect eye, get emergency care Surgery to tighten muscles/ligaments
Tumors behind eye Protruding eye, vision issues Protect eye, get emergency care Tumor removal surgery