More rural Americans treated in emergency departments for eye injuries

Research Activities, July 2011, No. 371

Rural Americans were five times more likely than urban residents to be treated in emergency departments (EDs) for eye injuries in 2008, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The Federal agency found that rural Americans made 646 visits to hospital EDs per 100,000 people in 2008, compared with 120 visits per 100,000 people by those in urban areas. People in the Northeast were the most and those in the West the least frequently seen in EDs for eye injury (256 vs. 156 visits per 100,000 people). The Midwest and South fell in between—242 visits and 200 visits per 100,000 people, respectively.

AHRQ also found that for patients treated in the ED and released in 2008 (97 percent of all patients treated for eye injuries):

  • The three most common types of the roughly 637,000 eye injuries were cornea scratches (50 percent), followed by cuts to the eyelid or around the eye (9 percent), and bruises around the eye (7 percent).
  • Of these injuries, 32 percent were caused by being hit in the eye by something or someone, falling down (9 percent), getting a caustic substance in the eye (4 percent), insect bites or other reasons (3 percent), or being in a motor vehicle accident (nearly 3 percent).

For the 3 percent of patients admitted to the hospital for eye injuries in 2008:

  • The most common types of injuries were wounds to the tear glands (17 percent), bruised eye sockets (15 percent), and bruised eyelids (11 percent).
  • Falls were the major cause of these injuries (36 percent), followed by motor vehicle accidents (19 percent), being hit by something or somebody (12 percent), other reasons including insect bites (3 percent), and getting burned by a caustic substance (1 percent).

This AHRQ News and Numbers summary is based on data from Emergency Department Visits Related to Eye Injuries, 2008 ( The report uses data from the Agency's 2008 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample. For information about this AHRQ database, go to Databases and Related Tools from HCUP: Fact Sheet .

For other information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.

Page last reviewed July 2011
Internet Citation: More rural Americans treated in emergency departments for eye injuries: Research Activities, July 2011, No. 371. July 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.