Life today is fast paced, with so much going on and whether it is at work or at home, there is a lot of demand for our time. With all that happening, it is easy to be complacent with regard to safety when performing any task. This can harm our health in a variety of ways, but is particularly problematic if it results in an eye injury.
Common Eye Injury Types
Eye injury prevention begins with understanding what kind of problems your eyes are vulnerable to. In fact, there are a number of different types of eye injury, some more serious than others, but all fall into one of these categories:
- Impact Injuries – Common in sports, these occur when an object strikes the eye or the surrounding area. It is a frequent injury for basketball players, where an elbow can strike the eye unintentionally, but any object can cause these, including a ball or a fist for instance. These injuries can result in an eye bruise or more serious issues, both to the eye itself and the eye socket.
- Scratches and Abrasions – Smaller objects striking the eye can scratch rather than bruise, creating a different type of eye injury with their own treatment needs. A scratch to the surface of the eye is known as a corneal abrasion, and is one of the most common result of a fingernail, twig or other small object scratching the eye. They are very painful, although minor scratches can heal quite quickly. More serious issues can lead to problems such as Keratitis, which is why it is crucial to understand the importance of eye health and see a doctor if your eyes suffer any injury.
- Penetrating Injuries – These are extremely common in woodworking, building and other trades, and are a stark reminder of why eye protection is so important. Whether from shards of glass, pieces of a cutting disc or other flying objects, using power tools, hammering or other activities can result in these types of eye injuries. They are extremely painful and can cause severe problems up to and including permanent vision loss.
- Chemical Burns – Whether it is household cleaning products splashing into the eye or in some cases the vapor from chemicals causing irritation, the burning sensation needs immediate treatment and can lead to severe injury. It is important to understand that many chemicals we use are a potential hazard to the eyes and take precautions, including eye protection, when using them.
- Radiation Damage – Whether it is the sun itself or artificial sun lamps for tanning or other uses, the UV rays they emit can damage the eyes through prolonged exposure without eye protection. This can cause damage to the retina and subsequently impact eyesight, with the potential of reducing vision to 20/200 or worse.
- Foreign Body Injuries – We have discussed impact injuries from larger objects such as an elbow, and scratches from smaller objects such as tree branches and twigs, but there is another type of intrusion injury. From dust to grit, tiny pieces of metal or wood and more, these small items get into the eye and stay there, causing painful irritation and causing damage to the surface of the eye.
While eye injuries of any kind can happen at any time, in the US around 300,000 people a year end up in the emergency room thanks to an eye injury, the vast majority being through workplace accidents. The majority of eye injuries, around 60%, are caused by foreign bodies, while a further 35% are as a result of impact injuries.
Eye Injury and Eye Diseases
With such a variety of injury types, there are also a wide range of consequences too. While some eye injuries may be minor, a small corneal abrasion can often heal itself within three days for instance, others can cause permanent vision loss, or even the loss of the eye altogether.
Aside from the physical consequences of an eye injury, some can lead to eye disease too. These can include:
- Glaucoma can result from impact injuries if there is significant bleeding within the eye
- Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) is usually the result of a bacterial or viral infection but can be caused by chemical intrusion into the eye.
- Inflammation in the middle layers of the eye is known as Uveitis and can be the result of impact injuries or the result of an infection in other eye injuries.
- Keratitis is inflammation of the cornea and can result from scratch or abrasion injuries if severe and left untreated.
Eye disease can impact vision quality as well as cause discomfort, and that vision impairment may be temporary while the disease is active, or it can be permanent, meaning your vision is affected even after the disease is treated. Permanent vision loss, or even temporary vision reduction can have a significant impact on your life. From simple daily tasks at home to coping within the work environment, the importance of eye health is often neglected until it is too late.
Losing an income on top of deteriorating eyesight, because you can no longer carry out that work, creates additional stress, making for an incredibly difficult time, which is why wearing eye protection is so important. It is easy to do and can protect your eyes from most of the more common eye injuries that you may encounter.
Eye Injury Prevention and Treatment
With statistics showing that over 80% of eye injuries can be prevented by wearing suitable eye protection, there is something we can all do this National Eye Injury Prevention Month. That can be as simple as a quality pair of sunglasses to prevent UV damage when out in the sun, or shatterproof safety glasses when using machinery. With specialized eyewear for sports and almost any activity, there really is no excuse, and with the potential for life changing injuries, not wearing some sort of eye protection is just not worth the risk.
However, if you do suffer an eye injury, a visit to the emergency room may be necessary, but there are things you can do immediately that can really help.
In the case of chemical burns or foreign objects, flush the eye with lots of clean water. This should be maintained for ten to fifteen minutes. If the injury was caused by chemicals, you should follow up by seeking medical assistance immediately after flushing. If the foreign bodies remain in the eye, again seek medical help. You should never try and remove an object from the eye yourself, except by flushing with water, as you can cause further damage that encourages infections.
Every year, a significant number of people around the world experience low vision due to ocular injuries. For instance, in America, about 3 persons in every 1000 population would have severe eye injuries each year. In summary, low vision caused by eye injuries is usually irreversible, this is why people with visual impairments should pay more attention to their safety in order to avoid further hurts. The help from family or friends can be a huge comfort for visually impaired people.
Furthermore, people with low vision should particularly avoid engaging in intense physical activities. This is not only related to their visual condition but also to safeguarding their overall health and well-being. For more sports-related eye injuries, please check: How to Protect the Eyes When Playing Sports? Or if you would like to know more information about eye injuries in the workplace, visit: Do You Know These Hazards to the Eyes in Your Workplace?
While there are some incredibly effective aids for people with visual impairments, such as the Zoomax Snow 12 that make it easier to cope with vision problems, the fact that well over 80% of all eye injuries can be prevented means that many people should not need to rely on them.
National Eye Injury Prevention Month reminds us that by wearing suitable eye protection, we can avoid most of the hazards to the eyes that cause common eye injuries. The importance of eye health cannot be understated, and by thinking about eye injury prevention, many more people can avoid eye injury and the challenges that it can bring.