Accidents happen and all too often, accidents lead to eye injuries. Unfortunately, over 50% of eye injury victims are under 25. Over 100,000 injuries each year occur during sports or other recreational activities and 90 percent of all those eye injuries could have been prevented. An optometrist evaluation as soon as possible after an accident is critical as eye injuries may not be immediately obvious.
The easiest and best injury prevention is wearing safety glasses during time spent at activities where the eyes may be injured. Even if you don’t normally wear glasses, you should always wear protect your eyes engaging in sports, household or other recreational activities where chemicals, rocks or other projectiles may damage your eyes. Sports where eye protection is recommended include:
- Baseball: A helmet with polycarbonate face shield should be used while batting.
- Basketball, Lacrosse, Racquetball, Tennis, and Soccer: Use sports goggles with polycarbonate lenses and side shields which pass the ASTM or Canadian Standards
- Association (CSA) racket-sport standard: Spectacle correction may be incorporated into the goggles.
- Boxing: Boxing poses an extremely high risk of serious, even blinding, injury. No adequate eye protection is available although thumbless gloves may reduce the number of eye injuries.
- Hockey: Always use a helmet with polycarbonate face mask or wire shield certified by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) or the CSA.
- Skiing: Protective glasses or goggles that filter U.V. and excessive sunlight exposure can be useful in shielding the eyes from sunburn.
- Fishing and Target Shooting
Safety glasses should have lenses made of polycarbonate (an especially strong, shatterproof, lightweight plastic) and be 3mm thick inside a plastic or polycarbonate frame, to reduce the risk of injury from the frames themselves. Even people with vision in only one eye should wear safety glasses to protect the good eye. Frames which meet the ANSI standards offer the best available protection for general spectacle wear.
Eye protection is not just for sports. Home activities may also accidentally cause injure such as using power tools or hammering on metal. Other home safety ideas include:
- Children indulging in missile type activity such as soft pellet or BB guns, paint ball and model rockets should always wear eye protection.
- Setting off fireworks are potentially dangerous as sparks, gun powder and incendiary ash may lodge in the eyes.
- Stones thrown from a lawnmower’s moving blades while operating may also damage eyes
- Household and garage stored chemicals can produce extensive damage to the ocular surfaces and anterior segment leading to visual impairment. Keep all chemicals and sprays safely out of reach of small children.
- In the event of an injury, early recognition and treatment ensures the best possible outcome.
Students should wear protective goggles when participating in shop or science lab.
Be aware that contact lenses are not a form of protective eyewear and contact lens wearers require additional protection when participating in sports.
Types of Eye Injuries
- Cut, Laceration or Scratch of Eyelid
Small cuts heal on their own. Deep cuts/laceration or ones that go through the edge of the eyelid need sutures.
- Bruise of the Eyelids
Also called a “black eye”. The swelling and bruise get worse for a few days. Then it will go away on its own over 2 -3 weeks. It’s normal for the bruise to change colors as it heals. Based on the severity of blunt trauma a dilated fundus evaluation should be performed to assess the retinal for bleeding or retinal detachment. Even minor trauma may cause traumatic iritis causing severe risk or loss of sight.
- Subconjunctival Hemorrhage
This is a flame-shaped bruise of the white part (sclera) of the eyeball. It’s bright red. It’s caused by a scratch to the sclera. It’s a mild injury that will go away on its own over 2 weeks.
- Corneal Abrasion
A scratch of the clear part (cornea) of the eye. The cornea is the window in front of the iris. The main symptoms are severe eye pain, tearing and constant blinking. Some children will just hold their eye closed. Caused by a scratch from a branch of a tree or bush. Can also be caused by a foreign object stuck under the upper eyelid. Most are minor and heal in 2 days. This is the most common eye injury that needs to see a doctor.
- Acute Hyphemia (Serious)
It means bleeding in the space between the cornea and the iris. The blood often layers out at the bottom of the cornea. It’s caused by blunt trauma.
Punctured Eyeball (Serious). It means a sharp object has completely torn the cornea or sclera. Can happen with tiny objects thrown by a lawnmower.
- The main concern is whether the vision is damaged.
- Older children can tell us if their vision is blurred or out of focus. You can test this at home. Cover each eye in turn and having them look at a distant object.
- Children less than 5 years old usually need to be examined. This is also true even if the injury seems minor. Having an exam is the only way to know the child’s vision is okay.
When to Call for Eye – Injury
Call Doctor or Seek Care Now
- Pupils not equal in size
- Sharp object hit the eye (such as a metal chip)
- Any cut on the eyelid or eyeball
- Age less than 1 year old
- You think your child has a serious injury
- You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent
Call Doctor Within 24 Hours
- Bruises near the eye
- You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent
Call Doctor During Office Hours
- Dirty cut and no tetanus shot in over 5 years
- Clean cut and no tetanus shot in over 10 years
- You have other questions or concerns
Self Care at Home
- Minor eye injury