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A Little Foresight to Prevent Eye Injuries

July is all about seeing the sights — vacation spots, parades, fireworks, flourishing gardens, ball games and every kind of festival under the sun. But it’s also a month that poses every kind of risk for eye injuries, from errant throws to errant bottle rockets and everything in between. Now during Eye Injury Prevention Month, it’s a good time to learn more about these injuries, how to avoid them, and what to do if one happens to you.

Know Your Eye Enemies

When you think of an eye injury, you probably imagine being struck by something you never saw coming. But surprisingly, falls are the #1 cause of eye injuries, with adults over 60 accounting for the majority of hospitalizations.

Aside from falls, other major causes of eye injuries include:

  • A blow to the eye by a hard object like a baseball, rock or fist
  • Cuts or scratches from objects like tools and branches
  • Foreign objects such as sand, wood chips and metal shavings
  • Chemical burns from alkalis (oven or drain cleaner, fertilizer) and acids (bleach, pool chemicals)
  • UV rays

For children under 10, most eye injuries come from accidentally being struck by a person or object, car crashes and accidents with sharp objects (so “no running with scissors” is sound advice).

This being July, one of the biggest culprits in eye injuries for all ages is probably obvious: fireworks. According to the US Consumer Products Safety Commission, emergency rooms treat nearly 13,000 fireworks injuries each year, with 8,700 of those happening during the Independence Day period alone. All told, 14% of fireworks injuries are eye injuries — and most of those (60%) are suffered by bystanders.

But if you’re thinking you’ll just stick to sparklers, there’s bad news there as well. Roughly 1,200 fireworks injuries are caused by sparklers every year. When you think about it, it’s not surprising. After all, you’re basically holding a stick that’s burning at more than 2,000 degrees!

Keep An Eye On Safety

It’s estimated that upwards of 90% of eye injuries are preventable just by taking these simple steps that our partners at the Mayo Clinic recommend:

  • Eliminate falling hazards — Secure rugs and railings, use safety gates if you live with young children or elderly parents, and cushion sharp corners on tables and furniture.
  • Wear your goggles — Whether you’re painting, working on your car, running a lawn mower or trimmer, or tackling a DIY project, always use protective eyewear.
  • Supervise the kids — Tools, projectile toys, pencils, laser pointers and even common household items like hangers and rubber bands can be eye dangers in young hands. Also, keep caustic chemicals well out of reach, store sharp kitchen utensils in child-proof locations (and keep track of them during use), and make sure kids stay at a safe distance during yard work.
  • Beware the hot stuff — In the kitchen, use grease shields to prevent hot oil from splashing. If you use a curling iron, stay well clear of your face.
  • Leave fireworks to the pros

In Case Of An Eye Injury

Even if it seems minor, take any eye injury seriously and seek attention from a doctor ASAP. The alternative is to risk permanent vision loss or even blindness.

When an injury occurs, your first objective is to prevent any further damage. These tips from the Mayo Clinic can help you do just that:

  • Do not touch, rub or apply ointment, medication or pressure
  • If an object appears stuck on or in the eye, do not try to remove it
  • If caused by a chemical, flush the eye with plenty of clear water
  • Gently cover the eye with gauze or a shield until a doctor can take a look

Whether it’s an injury or medical condition, St. Clair Hospital’s experienced ophthalmologists and eye surgeons are nearby and ready to provide the expert care you need.

Says St. Clair Hospital Chair of Emergency Medicine, Jason M. Biggs, M.D., “We see eye injuries daily in the St. Clair Hospital Emergency Department. They range from mild corneal abrasions (a scratch to the outer surface of eye) to vision threatening, severe injuries such as a ruptured globe. Prevention is key — wear eye protection! If you are enjoying mountain biking, working on your car, using power tools, welding, working in the yard or any other activity that is likely to send projectiles towards your face, don’t forget the safety glasses/goggles/face shield. Even with appropriate safety gear, accidents can happen. If you are injured, we in the St. Clair Emergency Department are happy to evaluate you, 24/7/365.”

To learn more, or to make an appointment with a St. Clair ophthalmologist, visit stclair.org.

Jason M. Biggs, M.D.

Dr. Biggs earned his medical degree at Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia. He completed a residency in emergency medicine at UPMC. Dr. Biggs is board-certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He serves as Chair of Emergency Medicine at St. Clair Hospital.

SOURCES:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-most-common-causes-of-eye-injuries-in-the-u-s/

https://www.preventblindness.org/consumer-fireworks-can-cause-devastating-injuries

https://www.preventblindness.org/preventing-eye-injuries

American Academy of Ophthalmology https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/injuries-fireworks-eye-safety

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/eye-injury/art-20047121