This Is What Happens When a Firecracker Explodes in Your Eye

nejm, eye, firecracker, eye injury
The image on the left shows the man's left eye shortly after the explosion. The yellowish spots are fragments from the firecracker embedded in his cornea. The image on the right is a CT scan of the man's head. The arrows point to firecracker fragments, which appear as bright white spots, embedded in both eyes. (Image credit: The New England Journal of Medicine © 2017)

With July Fourth just around the corner, it's important to keep an eye out for eye dangers: A man in India suffered severe eye injuries after a firecracker exploded close to his face, according to a new case report.

The 44-year-old man went to the emergency room in September 2015 after he lit a firecracker and it burst in his face, sending fragments deep into his eyes, according to a brief report of the man's case, published today (June 28) in The New England Journal of Medicine.

A vision test revealed that the man was unable to perceive light in his right eye and had blurred vision in his left eye, the doctors who treated the man wrote in the report. And additional eye exams showed that the man's eyes were filled with fragments from the blast. [Here's a Giant List of the Strangest Medical Cases We've Covered]

The doctors were able to remove the firework fragments from the man's left eye, though Dr. Jagat Ram, a professor of ophthalmology at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in India who treated the man, said removing all of the fragments took several sessions.

"It was difficult to remove many of the deeply embedded foreign bodies in the deep layers of [the man's] cornea," Ram told Live Science. The cornea is the transparent, outermost layer of the eye.

After the doctors removed the fragments, they gave the man antibiotics and lubricating eye drops, and his vision in his left eye improved to 20/40 vision after three months, according to the report.

The damage to the man's right eye, however, was more severe. In that eye, the firework fragments punctured the man's eyeball; doctors call this "globe rupture."  

A punctured eyeball can be repaired in some cases if the patient gets treatment soon enough after the injury and doctors can find the hole and stitch it up, Ram said. But in this man's case, the eyeball was severely damaged, and the fluids within the eyeball had leaked out, Ram said.

The doctors were unable to fix the man's right eye, and he eventually developed a condition called "phthisis bulbi," which means that the eyeball has shrunk and no longer functions, Ram said. When a person has phthisis bulbi, he or she is completely blind in that eye.

Ram noted that he's seen several cases like this in the past, with multiple foreign objects penetrating the eyeball. In the report, the authors added that "appropriate eyewear may be protective" when setting off firecrackers.

Originally published on Live Science.

Sara G. Miller
Staff Writer
Sara is a staff writer for Live Science, covering health. She grew up outside of Philadelphia and studied biology at Hamilton College in upstate New York. When she's not writing, she can be found at the library, checking out a big stack of books.