by Richard B. Phinney, MD
The loss of an eye or vision is one of the most frightening scenarios imaginable for most people. When this occurs in a preventable situation, it is even more tragic. October is Eye Injury Prevention month, and a reminder to be mindful of situations in which eye protection is crucial. Every day, we see eye injuries ranging from minor to major. Many of these were preventable. Considering the small surface area of the body that the eye occupies, it receives more than its fair share of abuse.
Line trimmers, metal on metal pounding (hammering nails, etc.), wind-blown debris and gardening misadventures account for a disproportionate number on injuries that could be prevented by glasses or goggles. Regular glasses may not be sufficient to prevent injury from high-speed objects that can result from pounding, grinding or trimming. Hardened safety glasses with side shields are recommended for these sorts of activities.
Sporting accidents resulting from contact with other players or a thrown baseball may cause blunt trauma resulting in permanent vision loss. Notice that Olympic sand volleyball players are wearing glasses during matches in the day and night for protective purposes. Many pro basketball players recognize the potential threat and are also wearing sports glasses.
Unfortunately, celebrations involving fireworks frequently cause injuries to eyes and hands with tragic consequences. Situational awareness is really the overarching principle to prevent disasters. Our cars remind us to put on our seat belt before driving, but we don’t have that luxury for other potentially threatening activities.
You may be somewhat aware of the possible risks of eye injuries, but are you taking the easiest step of all to prevent 90 percent of those injuries—wearing the proper protective eyewear? Consider these facts:
- Men are more likely to have an eye injury.
- More than 40 percent of eye injuries are caused by projects and activities such as home repairs, yard work, cleaning and cooking.
- More than 40 percent of eye injuries every year are related to sports or recreational activities.
- Eyes can be damaged by sun exposure, not just chemicals, dust or objects.
Among the reported eye injuries, more than 78 percent of people were not wearing eyewear at the time of injury. Of those reported to be wearing eyewear, only 5.3 percent were wearing safety or sports glasses.
If you are not taking this step, you are not alone. According to a national survey by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, only 35 percent of respondents said they always wear protective eyewear when performing home repairs or maintenance; even fewer do so while playing sports. So please, take the time to protect your eyes. It could be the best investment you will ever see.
Dr. Phinney, a cornea and cataract specialist at Carolina Eye Associates, can be reached at 800-733-5357 or 910-295-2100, or visit www.carolinaeye.com