Put Protective Eye Gear in Your Weekend Plans

by Super User

Written By MGP Member Melvin E. Wagner, M.D.

Board Certified Ophthalmologist at Stoken Wagner Ophthalmic Associates


Making plans for some home projects this weekend? Be sure to include protective eye gear on your shopping list if you don’t already own some. While most people believe eye injuries occur mainly in the workplace, more than half of all eye injuries happen at home--in the kitchen, garage and yard--where protective eye gear is worn at your discretion.

Flying dust from the weed whacker, wood shavings blown from a power sander, household cleaning agents splashing as they’re poured into a bucket or even a spatter of hot grease from a pan can turn routine household chores into a trip to the emergency room or the ophthalmologist’s office. At best, an eye injury is an inconvenience; at worst, it can result in serious vision loss.

Protective Eye Gear Saves Vision

Wearing protective glasses or goggles can prevent 90 percent of all household eye injuries and save you hours of treatment for an eye abrasion, corneal tear or other eye injury. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends you invest in at least one pair of ANSI-approved protective eyewear, available at most hardware stores, to keep at home for any activity that could include:

  • spattering substances—particularly grease and chemicals
  • flying debris (dust, wood and metal shavings)
  • projectiles that could launch unexpectedly or veer off course

When considering how many pairs of protective glasses to keep on hand, remember that by-standers can be injured as well as workers. So, if your son or daughter is helping you saw or hammer together pieces for a backyard deck, make sure their eyes are protected, too.

Prescription eye glasses provide some protection, but depending on the activity, they are not sufficient to keep debris from entering your eyes from the side. While you may resist wearing protective eye gear because it can fog or make your vision less clear, this minor inconvenience is well worth protecting a lifetime of eyesight. Even a minor eye injury can increase your risk for glaucoma.

Look Out for Eye Injuries at Play, Too

Sports and recreational activities are another common source of home eye injuries. The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) has created sports/recreation-specific eye gear, and it’s important to use the appropriate protection for the activity planned.

Baseball, basketball and racket sports lead the list of sports that cause eye injuries while air soft guns, BB guns, paintball guns and the harmless sounding Nerf guns and blasters can also pack enough punch to detach a retina during play. Carefully determine at what age your child can use these devices and always supervise their use.

Taking your equipment on the road? The bungee cords often used to secure kayaks or bicycles for transportation have potential to snap quickly and unexpectedly. Combine their elasticity with the cord’s sharp hooked ends and you can see why this commonly used device is a real hazard to your eyes too.

An increasing number of eye injuries are caused by home fireworks ranging from debris flying from sparklers to chemical burns and the blinding impact of explosives. To prevent eye injury from these devices, it’s best not to bring them home at all. Leave pyrotechnics to the trained experts and enjoy them from a safe distance.

Quick Action Can Save Your Vision

If an eye injury does occur at home, act quickly to assess the impact and elements involved. Any chemical agents that make contact with the eye should be flushed with water immediately. If an item is lodged in the eye, do not remove it! Go directly to the emergency room for treatment, and an on-call ophthalmologist will meet you there.

Except in the case of chemical agents, don’t put water in the eye. Never rub or apply pressure to an eye that you suspect is injured and don’t apply any medication or ointment to the eye.

For less obvious eye injuries, it’s best to error on the side of caution and have it examined by an ophthalmologist or other medical doctor as soon as possible. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology signs that medical assistance is needed include:

  • A foreign body in the eye or under the eyelid
  • Pain in the eye or trouble seeing
  • A cut or torn eyelid
  • One eye not moving as well as the other
  • One eye that sticks out when compared to other
  • Blood in the clear part of the eye

You should also be seen if eye redness from exposure to dust or debris doesn’t clear up within 24 hours.

Melvin E. Wagner, M.D. is part of the Medical Group of Pennsylvania -- a network of independent physicians in central Pennsylvania committed to their patients and communities as they work to provide quality healthcare at the best value through group purchasing, value based contracts and other networking opportunities. To learn more, visit www.medgrouppa.com.

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