The Virginia Retina Center

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Eye Safety

Even a minor eye injury can cause serious, lifelong eye damage. For example, bleeding within the eye, caused by an eye injury, can cause glaucoma later in life. Eye injuries can cause loss of vision, or complete loss of an eye. Listed below are tips for preventing eye injuries, as well as information about first aid treatment in the event of an eye injury.


First Aid Treatment For Eye Injuries

Never guess about the severity of an eye injury. Seek medical attention as soon as possible following an injury, particularly if you have pain in the eye, blurred vision, loss of vision or loss of field of vision. There are several simple first aid steps that can and should be taken until medical assistance is obtained.

Chemical Exposure

(Oven cleaner, drain cleaner, or other caustic products or concentrated acid products)

DO immediately flush the eye with water or any drinkable (potable) liquid (such as milk), continuously for at least 30 minutes. Dilution as well as washing out particulate matter is the key.

DO hold head under a shower or water fountain or use a garden hose at low pressure to pour water into the eye. Leaving for the hospital or taking time to call a physician before flushing the eye first will only allow additional damage to occur and could mean loss of vision.

DO NOT try to neutralize the chemical.

Blows To The Eye

DO place a small, soft plastic sandwich bag wrapped in a clean cloth or gauze, filled with crushed ice (the size of a golf ball) gently over the eye, taping it to the forehead, to reduce pain and swelling. Whole ice cubes or commercial ice packs are too heavy and may cause further damage.

DO see an ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) immediately if there is severe swelling or bleeding, decrease or loss of vision or field of vision, or double vision.

DO NOT allow the injured person to blow his nose, because, in case of a fracture of the orbit (socket), bacteria from the sinuses may be blown into the tissues around the eye, causing eye infection.

DO NOT allow injured person to rub the eye.

DO NOT apply pressure to the eye.

DO seek medical help immediately.

DO protect the eye with something hard, such as sunglasses or the bottom of a milk carton or a paper or Styrofoam cup taped over the eye, while en route to medical care.

DO NOT wash out the eye or try to remove an object stuck in the eye or orbit (socket).

Cuts or Punctures of the Eye or Eyelid

DO seek medical help immediately.

DO protect the eye with something hard, such as sunglasses or the bottom of a milk carton or a cup taped over the eye, while en route to medical care.

DO NOT wash out the eye or try to remove an object stuck in the eye or orbit (socket).

DO NOT apply pressure to the eye.

Foreign Body in the Eye

DO see an ophthalmologist (eye M.D.) immediately if the particle does not wash out or if pain persists.

DO allow natural tearing to flush out the particle. If it does not flush out, use a squeeze-type bottle of commercial eye solution to irrigate the eye, which may dislodge the particle.

DO NOT remove protruding objects. Seek immediate medical aid.

DO NOT directly rub a speck or particle. Pull upper eyelid down over the lower eyelid and allow it to push the speck out of the eye.


Eye Safety Tips

Wear appropriate eye protection (and encourage your children to do so) when participating in sports and recreational activities. Also use eye proctection when doing carpentry (hammering nails, sawing wood), or when working near machinery, lawn mowers, weeding power equipment, car batteries, chemicals or anything that may cause flying particles.

DO be sure that the lenses and frames of safety glasses that are certified have passed the standard written by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) also writes standards for sports/recreational eye protectors. Polycarbonate lenses are preferable. The better sports eye protectors are made of polycarbonate with molded temples. Wear eye appropriate protection (i.e., splash goggles) when using such potentially hazardous substances as ammonia, oven cleaner and other chemicals.

DO wear sunglasses, plain or with prescription lenses, to protect the eyes against sunlight and on cloudy days to protect against ultraviolet radiation. Make certain the sunglasses specify 99 percent ultraviolet blocking capability because darkness of lenses does not mean the same thing and darker lenses are not always better.

DO wear polycarbonate protection eyewear during waking hours if you have good vision in only one eye.

DO turn your face away or close your eyes when spraying perfume, hair spray or deodorant. Use care when applying lotions, creams or oils on the eyelids or around the eyes. If you are exposed to these or other chemicals, severe irritation may result.

DO NOT substitute ordinary streetwear glasses or contact lenses for appropriate eye protection. Ordinary glasses may break on impact, often leading to severe eye injury, and contact lenses provide no protection whatsoever against eye injury. Polycarbonate lenses are the most impact resistant material.

DO NOT allow children to play with hazardous "toys" such as BB, pellet or paintball guns, bows and arrows, darts or firecrackers. Injuries sustained by both children and adults when using these items have often resulted in permanent damage or loss of an eye.

DO NOT use an eyecup since it may harbor harmful bacteria. Prolonged use of a decongestant that "gets the red out," may mask the symptoms and postpone treatment of a potentially serious eye condition.

DO NOT wear dark or heavily tinted glasses at night.


Eye Safety Tips for Contact Lens Wearers

Remove your contact lenses before entering a pool or hot tub. Chlorination may not kill harmful bacteria or parasites in the water. If you wear contact lenses and they are exposed to bacteria, serious eye infection and corneal disease may result. Use only commercially prepared solutions for contact lens care. Avoid homemade saline solutions of salt tablets and distilled or tap water.

DO NOT ever use tap or distilled water, or saliva to rinse contact lenses. After lenses have been removed, always disinfect and rinse them before reinserting. Failure to adhere to a strict cleansing routine can result in severe infection, corneal disease, and even loss of an eye.

DO NOT substitute ordinary streetwear glasses or contact lenses for safety eyewear. Ordinary glasses may break on impact, often leading to severe eye injury, and contact lenses provide no protection whatsoever against eye


Sports Injuries

What sport causes the most ocular injuries the U.S.? In 1998, basketball was responsible for over one-third of the eye injuries, but now that protective gear is required by many organizations, basketball has become a strong contender for first place for an estimated 8,723 eye injuries. Swimming and pool sports resulted in an estimated 4,593 eye injuries. Baseball had been the most common, but fell to third place with 4,029 cases.

The majority of these and other sports-related and recreational activities and eye injuries could have been prevented if the athletes had worn appropriate, certified protective eyewear. The right kind of protective eyewear can make a huge difference. For example, in Canada , ocular trauma related to ice hockey decreased by 90 percent after certified full-face protector and headgear was made mandatory in organized amateur hockey.

If you think sports-related eye injuries are not important, think about these facts:

  • The average hockey puck travels at 90-100 mph.
  • Professional baseball players throw balls at about 95 mph.
  • High-speed film has demonstrated that elite squash players strike the ball at 125-145 mph.
  • A badminton shuttlecock has been clocked at 140 mph.
  • Polycarbonate protects against a .22 caliber bullet.

If you consider that even a novice 12-year-old squash player can hit a ball at 80 mph, you will understand that high-velocity flying objects can do irreparable damage to the human eye. Your vision is precious, protect it.

Children and Sports Injuries

Children are at particular risk for a sports-related eye injury. Every year, 25,513 children sustain serious sports-related eye injuries. That is why it is essential that all children wear appropriate, protective eyewear whenever playing sports. Basketball is responsible for 2,338 eye injuries in children age 5 to 14. It accounts for 3,856 eye injuries in teens and young adults (15-24 years old). It may be surprising to know that it is not the ball that causes most of these injuries, but rather the fingers and elbows of other players. Almost all of these injuries could have been prevented had the child worn appropriate protective eyewear.

Parents are advised to acquaint themselves with the potential for eye injuries in sports and recreational activities including gym and to insist that their children use appropriate, protective eyewear when participating in sports or other fun activities.

Just as your child wears a bike helmet, so must he or she learn to automatically reach for sport-appropriate, protective eyewear when heading for the field or court.


Protective Eyewear

Not all eyewear is alike. The ophthalmologists at Wills Eye Institute recommend you always use appropriate, certified eyewear whenever participating in sports. If you wear prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses, remember that they never substitute for appropriate, well-fitted protective eyewear. You may however, obtain prescription eyewear that is made of impact resistant materials preferably polycarbonate that passes the appropriate standard. Lensless goggles offer no protection.


Sunglasses

Sunglasses, plain or with prescription lenses, protect the eyes against sunlight (ultraviolet radiation). Make certain the sunglasses specify 99 percent ultraviolet blocking capability because darkness of lenses does not mean the same thing and darker lenses are not always better. Sunglasses that are too dark and "fool" the pupil so that it will not constrict allow more ultraviolet light to enter the eye. Polycarbonate lenses are strongly recommended for safety.

American National Standards Institute: ANSI Z80.3-1996 Requirements for non-prescription sunglasses and fashion eyewear


What is an emergency?



This may seem like a silly question, but if you’ve ever had to think about going to the hospital, you may have had to consider whether your injury or condition is truly an emergency. When we think of a health emergency, we often think of a sudden event, like a car accident or heart attack, as worthy of "emergency" status. It may happen on a weekend or holiday when it is difficult to reach your personal healthcare provider. You may wonder, "can it wait?" You may question your own perceptions or feelings.
To further complicate things, not all healthcare insurers define "emergency services" the same way.
For these reasons, it is important to be clear about what constitutes a medical emergency.
You should also be familiar with how your health plan defines an emergency. If you aren’t sure, give them a call or review your customer handbook. When considering whether something is a medical emergency, just remember this rule: if you believe your life or health is in jeopardy, seek medical treatment immediately.