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Eye Safety

May is the Healthy Vision Month. What exactly does that mean?

Healthy vision allows us to enjoy our family, pursue our hobbies and earn our livings. Regular examinations detect eye diseases. Eye safety - avoiding eye injuries - is equally important. There are a remarkable number of ways to injure your eyes while doing common, ordinary, everyday activities. Many of these injuries are preventable.

What activities cause the most eye injuries?

Objects flying into people’s eyes cause the most injuries. Running a close second are people running into stationary objects.

What age group presents the most eye injuries?

There are two age groups that present the highest number of eye injuries; older teens and young adults in their late twenties. The former group is very active, from organized sports to unorganized wrestling, fighting and horsing around. Basketball and baseball cause many eye injuries for boys; gymnastics and soccer cause a lot of eye injuries in girls. Both genders of older teenagers do not typically pay attention to printed warnings about potential eye injury. Over-inflating a bicycle tire, for example. This age group is also involved in an above average number of automobile wrecks and motorcycle accidents.

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What types of eye injuries are common among young adults?

If young adults are not running into other young adults when participating in sporting activities, they’re running into stationary objects like walls, cabinets or appliances. Car and motorcycle wrecks cause numerous eye injuries as does their repair and maintenance. Eye injuries occur around the house and in the workshop. Yard work leads to scratched corneas from branches and leaf edges. Lawn mowers and weed eaters transform sprinkler heads, rocks, glass and tree bark into eye injury projectiles. In the workshop, tools like saws, belt sanders and grinding wheels send sharp particles into the eye. Chemical adhesives find their way into a lot of eyes. Women scrapbookers and crafters are victims of glue container explosions. Both adult men and women suffer eye injuries from errant use of hazardous liquids and sprays; vinegar and lemon juice among them. Adult women injure their eyes with mascara wands and eye liners as well as fingernails.

Back outdoors, recreational activities and hobbies cause numerous eye injuries from four wheeling to fishing. I also see fire related eye injuries in adults. Not so much from smoking, although there are always cases of small embers entering the eye. The major injuries occur from exploding grill and fireplace embers. Every January and July, I see serious eye injuries as a result of malfunctioning fireworks.

What types of eye injuries are common among youngsters?

Infants fall out of bed and poke themselves in the eye with their toys. Grains of sand and specks of dirt get into their eyes when they go outside which they quickly and reflexively rub, causing a scratch on their cornea. Pets with claws and beaks can also scratch a cornea faster than a child can blink. Children can become angry about another child’s behavior and what was a fun toy a moment ago is now a weapon. Flying parts can become missiles. And there are the traditional weapons of childhood - pellet and BB guns, arrows, knives and rocks – all of which can cause serious eye injury or vision loss.

School supplies like pencils, paper clips, staples, rubber bands and glue cause numerous injuries. Youngsters trying to open childproof containers of hazardous liquids and sprays can break the container causing the liquid to fly out. Children wreck their little red wagons, tricycles and bicycles the way adults wreck their cars and motorcycles. They misuse adult tools or suffer eye injuries because they don’t know what they’re doing.

Do children suffer from eye injuries that are not of their own making?

Yes. Regrettably. Adults playing with children may cause eye injuries. Adults drive cars in which children are passengers and are not properly belted for safety. Liquid medicines in bottles with droppers that appear to be eye medications but aren’t have been instilled in children’s eyes by mistake. And the worst possible cause of eye injuries to children – intentional parental abuse.

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What types of eye injuries are common among the elderly?

Women are affected by osteoporosis which decreases bone and muscular strength. Elderly women and men lose their balance for a variety of reasons as they age. These two conditions cause numerous eye injuries from falls. Like the rest of us, the elderly bump into objects and are involved in car accidents as drivers or passengers.

How can eye injuries be prevented?

Wear safety glasses when doing any activity where an object could fly into your eye. Sun glasses or clear glasses are fine. Slight magnifiers are an even better choice. In addition to protecting your eyes, you can better see what you’re doing. Wear a masked helmet when riding a motorcycle. Watch where you’re going. Be careful.

Can you be more specific?

Wear a seat belt. Don’t apply cosmetics in a moving vehicle. Do not attend amateur, front yard fireworks shows.

Instead of listing the thousands of specific ways one can be more careful in the thousands of different situations where eye injuries occur, I would advise you to be aware of how an eye can be injured in situations you encounter and know what you can do to prevent or avoid injury.

Here’s an example: A young man was cleaning his grill with a brush. One of the bristles broke off and flew into his eye. If he had been wearing sunglasses or even his reading glasses, that tiny metallic spear would have ricocheted off a plastic lens instead of piercing the natural one in his eye.

Are people exaggerating when they say, “Be careful! You’ll poke your eye out!”?

It is a very real possibility that an eye injury can cause loss of vision or loss of an eye. Fortunately, with advancements in microsurgery, even eyes suffering severe trauma can be saved and some vision restored. The healing process may progress slowly, yet over time, with the proper treatment provided by an experienced ophthalmologist, most eye injuries will heal.

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What should I do in the event of an eye injury?

Seek medical attention quickly for anything more serious than a speck of dirt or grain of sand in an eye. If it’s a blow to the eye, you can use a cold compress to reduce pain and swelling. Do not apply any pressure to the compress or touch the eye. If it is a chemical injury, flush the eye with clean water then seek immediate medical attention. If it’s a cut or puncture, do not remove any objects – even if it appears easy to do. Do not rinse the eye with any liquids. Do not apply any pressure or touch the eye. Do not take or give any blood thinning pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen. Only acetaminophen – generic Tylenol – does not thin the blood. Trauma, liquid chemicals, punctures and cuts all require immediate medical attention from an ophthalmologist at their office or an emergency room, medical center or clinic.

What’s the best way to get dirt out of an eye so I don’t have to go to the ER?

Use an eye wash. If an over the counter wash is not readily available, submerge the eye in clean water and blink. Do not rub, touch or put any pressure on the eye. That could produce a tissue tear or scratch where one has not yet occurred. If the grit won’t wash out, see an ophthalmologist or go to an emergency room or clinic where experienced doctors with special instruments can help you. That gritty sensation may not be a grain of sand or speck of dirt but a symptom of an eye disorder or disease. An experienced ophthalmologist will quickly know the difference and help you or your child or the person for whom you’re caring quickly recover.

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