Virtually every daily activity requires eye sight, from reading to working to sports and communicating with others. Yet, eye experts note that too often people forget to take measures that can prevent injuries. July’s observance of Eye Injury Prevention Month offers a great opportunity to think about eye safety.
“There are some basic steps you can take to help reduce eye injuries,” said Mirage Shah, OD, FAAO, optometrist at the Ophthalmology Clinic at Parkland Health & Hospital System. “One of the most important of these is to wear protective safety glasses when doing housework, yard work or playing sports.”
That simple measure can go a long way toward preventing all kinds of eye injuries. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, nearly one million people lose some degree of vision from preventable eye injury every year. An estimated 44 percent of the injuries occur in the home, and more than 40 percent are related to sports or recreational activities.
“Eye injuries occur from many different sources, such as household chemicals splashing, flying fragments and fumes in the workshop, fireworks, baseballs, tennis balls and exposure to ultraviolet (UV) sunlight” Dr. Shah said.
Even mundane household chores can pose hazards. Dr. Shah recalled a 42-year-old patient whose eye was scratched by a tree branch as he was trimming a hedge. The man developed a fungal infection of the cornea and needed extensive treatment.
“He permanently lost a little bit of vision in that eye, and it could have been prevented by wearing safety glasses,” he said.
The Vision Council also notes that just as UV exposure can burn and damage the skin, it can also harm unprotected eyes. Extended UV exposure has been linked to eye cancer and increased risk for cataracts. Protection from UV exposure is especially important for children. But a survey by the Vision Council reports that less than half of parents make sure their children wear sunglasses when outside. And, almost a third of adults never or rarely use sunglasses when outside.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology also recommends that parents only buy only age-appropriate toys for their children, avoiding toys with projectiles. Parents should look for items labeled with “ASTM,” which means it meets standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials. Protective eyewear for household or workshop use should be marked with “ASNI Z87.1,” which means the glasses, goggles or face shield meets the requirements of the American Standards Institute.
“If someone does suffer an eye injury, they should contact their local eye doctor, or go to the nearest emergency room immediately,” Dr. Shah said. “If chemicals are involved, immediately rinse your eyes, preferably with sterile saline solution or an eye rinse, for several minutes and visit an eye care specialist.” Dr. Shah added that rinsing with water is a less desirable option due to possible contaminants in the water and recommended having sterile saline solution or eye rinse in your home for possible emergencies.
For additional information on preventing eye injuries visit http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/living/eye-injuries/preventing.cfm.