Take Care of Your Eyes
Eye injuries can be painful and heartbreaking. Taking a moment to learn about common threats to your eyesight and that of your family could prevent a painful injury or a serious loss of eyesight.
"Many eye injuries are the result of seemingly mundane things people have contact with every day -- things like sunlight, sand and other particles, and chemicals such as cleaning solvents -- and their activities," says George A. Moninger, M.D., a board certified ophthalmologist in Farmer's Branch, Texas.
Beware the sun
These days, people spend more time outdoors and enjoy a more active lifestyle than past generations. The American Association of Ophthalmology believes it's important to recognize that sunlight is the major source of UV radiation that may damage eye tissue.
Chronic UV exposure can lead to cataracts, macular damage (area of the eye where most of the light collecting cells are found), pterygium formation (growth on the sclera and cornea), and skin cancers on the eyelids. Risk is highest in sunny environments where a large quantity of UV radiation is reflected, such as in snow or water. Tanning lamps and welding arcs are also sources of this type of eye damage.
"The good news about UV exposure is that it's reasonably easy to protect your eyes from it," says Dr. Moninger. "Simply wearing a hat will reduce your UV exposure by half. And a proper pair of sunglasses can eliminate virtually all of the UV as long as the glasses protect against 100 percent of UV light."
A darker pair of sunglasses isn't necessarily better. The degree of darkness of the sunglasses does not indicate how much UV light they absorb. The best sunglasses block 99 percent of UV light and wrap around the sides.
Eye injuries are the most common preventable cause of blindness. A few of the most common causes of these injuries and how to minimize risks are discussed below.
Fireworks. Make sure an adult supervises any firework use by children. Avoid any fireworks that fly, such as bottle rockets and roman candles.
On the job. If your job exposes you to you in the path of flying particles ( for example, grinding machines) or near dangerous substances (for example, in a chemical factory), wear appropriate protective eye gear.
Home improvement devices. If you use a grinder or woodworking machines that can spit out debris or particles, always wear eye protection.
Particles and other foreign bodies. Don't touch, press or rub the eye to remove a particle -- doing so may cause scratching and damage the eye more seriously. Instead, flush the eye with water for up to 15 minutes and see your doctor.
Bungee cord injuries. Use care when securing items with bungee cords. The use of protective eyewear is recommended although seldom practiced.
Household chemicals. The containers of most household products with potentially harmful contents list an emergency telephone number. In most cases of exposure, the affected eye should be flushed for 15 to 30 minutes and medical help should be sought immediately. "Your local poison control center can also give you instructions. Be prepared to give the exact name of the chemical, if possible," Dr. Moninger says.
Black eyes. Applying cold compresses intermittently at about 10-minute intervals for the first 24 to 48 hours after the injury can sometimes help reduce discoloration. Call your doctor immediately if you experience symptoms such as increased redness, eye drainage, persistent pain and distorted vision.
What sport causes the most eye injuries in the United States? Baseball, with basketball a close second. Baseball is responsible for more than a third of sports-related eye injuries. Fortunately, protective eye gear is now required by many sports organizations.
Worldwide, racquet sports are the number one cause of serious sports-related eye injuries.
To protect your eyes when playing sports, make sure to wear proper eye protection.
"Protective goggles or unbreakable glasses can be very effective in preventing many types of eye injury," says Dr. Moninger.