Eye Injury Prevention 101

  • Published
  • By Dr. (Capt.) Amanda Quelly
  • 49th Medical Group optometrist
Every day, more than 2,000 eye injuries occur which require medical care. Over 90 percent of these are avoidable with the proper precautions and eye protection. While on duty, many of you are required to use eye wear as part of your personal protective equipment, but how many of you forget to protect your eyes while off duty?

Based on the most common eye injuries seen at Holloman AFB, here are some tips for protecting you and your family's eyes:

-Don't get burned! Ultraviolet rays from the New Mexico sun can cause permanent damage. Wear 100 percent UV protection sunglasses, with wrap around sides, to protect your eyes and eyelids. Never stare directly at the sun, even during an eclipse! Sunglasses, camera lenses, or binoculars will not protect your eyes if you stare directly at the sun. Just because it's snowing, don't forget your sunglasses or ski goggles, snow blindness can be very painful!

-We've all heard the phrase, "You'll shoot your eye out!" However, most people don't think of air-soft guns as being high risk. A direct hit to the eye with an air-soft gun can cause permanent vision loss. As with all guns, wear shield-style glasses or goggles.

-Lawn mowing, edging, grinding, sanding, or cutting metal are just some of the home projects that are high risk for eye injury. A piece of wood or metal traveling at high speed from a tool can shoot around the edge of shields and glasses frames into your eyeball. This can cause blindness or require surgery to remove. Safety goggles are the best way to protect against this. Remember to keep your eye protection on while cleaning up; wood or metal shavings in the air can easily scratch the front of your eye.

-Use extreme caution with solid, liquid, powder, or aerosol chemicals. The most dangerous home products for the eyes are alkaline chemicals including ammonia, drain cleaners, bleach, automatic dishwashing detergents, and oven cleaner. Goggles provide the best protection, especially with aerosols. If you do get a chemical in your eye, immediately rinse your eye with clean water repeatedly for at least 15 minutes, then seek medical care.

-Contact lens wearers are five times more likely to get an eye infection than someone who does not wear contact lenses! Do not wear your soft contact lenses underwater in pools, hot tubs, lakes, or the ocean. It is best not to wear contacts at all while in the water. If you must swim underwater, wear goggles and wash hands prior to handling contacts. If your soft contacts do come into contact with water consider them contaminated, throw them away, and replace them with a new pair.

Basically, use common sense! Know eye dangers, eliminate unnecessary hazards, and use protective eyewear to prevent eye injuries. If you do sustain an eye injury that causes severe pain or reduced vision, seek medical assistance immediately.