Eye Injury Prevention and First Aid

Eye Injury Prevention and First Aid

Man and child working on a drill press wearing safety glasses

Eye injuries are one of the most common reasons for a trip to the eye doctor, but most eye injuries are preventable. In this blog, we’ll discuss eye injury prevention and first aid, as well as when you should call your eye doctor, or visit the emergency room. 

Preventing Eye Injuries

Protective Eyewear

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), 90% of eye injuries could be prevented by wearing the proper protective eyewear. Glasses and goggles that are intended for safety use will have the label “ANSI Z87.1,” indicating that they meet the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1 safety standards. Many people falsely believe that they do not need safety glasses if they are not working in an industrial environment. The truth is that nearly half of all eye injuries occur at home. According to the AAO, household chemicals alone are responsible for 125,000 eye injuries annually. Wearing protective eyewear is an easy and inexpensive way to prevent eye injuries and protect your vision, whether you are performing household tasks, working in an industrial environment, or participating in sports or outdoor activities. 

Contact Lens Hygiene 

Contact lenses are a safe and effective method of vision correction, however they do carry some risks if used incorrectly. If you wear contact lenses, it is essential to keep your hands clean and your nails trimmed to prevent injury and infection. It is also necessary to replace your contact lenses according to your doctor’s recommendation and avoid wearing contacts while you sleep.

Sunglasses

You know that wearing sunscreen is essential to prevent damage to your skin from the sun’s UV rays, but did you know that the sun can also damage your eyes? Exposure to UV can lead to photokeratitis (sunburn of the eye), cancers of the eye and eyelids, and vision damage. UV is present even on overcast days, so it is important to wear 100% UV blocking eyewear anytime you are outdoors during the daytime. 

Common Eye Injuries

Some of the most common eye injuries include:

  • Corneal Abrasion-a scratch on the surface of the cornea, often caused by a foreign object entering the eye.
  • Black Eye- a bruise on the tissue surrounding the eye, caused by impact to the area. 
  • Subconjunctival Hemorrhage- bleeding in the eye that pools beneath the clear covering of the eye known as the conjunctiva. This may be caused by strain, such as vomiting or coughing too hard, or by traumatic injury. 
  • Foreign Object- injuries that occur when a foreign object, such as dirt, debris, metal shaving, etc. enter the eye.
  • Retinal Tear or Detachment- tears in the retina may form as a result of trauma to the eye. Serious tears may cause the retina to detach from the back of the eye, leading to permanent vision loss. 
  • Orbital Fracture- when the bony socket (orbit) around the eye is fractured or broken. 
  • Chemical Burns-injuries that occur when chemicals or fumes enter the eyes.
  • Lacerations- deep cuts to the eye or the tissue that surrounds it.
  • Ruptured Globe- a serious eye emergency that occurs when the globe of the eye is punctured by a foreign object.

Eye Injury First Aid

If you sustain an eye injury, you should call your eye doctor or proceed to the nearest emergency room. Eye injuries can lead to infection or permanent vision loss, so it is extremely important to treat them quickly and appropriately. In some cases, there are steps you can take before going to the doctor that may help to prevent further injury:

  •  Foreign Object or Corneal Abrasion (scratched cornea)
    • Symptoms may include: Feeling like something is in the eye, pain, watering eyes, blurry vision, photophobia (sensitivity to light)

Rinse the eye using saline solution and an eye cup, or clean water and a clean glass if you do not have those products available. Avoid rubbing or touching the eye, or using objects such as a q-tip to remove foreign objects. Call your eye doctor, who may prescribe antibiotics and/or steroids to help you heal. If you experience light sensitivity, wear sunglasses. 

  • Getting Hit in the Eye

Symptoms may include: swelling, bruising, pain, changes to vision

For pain and swelling, place a cold compress on the eye, but DO NOT put pressure on the eye. Call your eye doctor immediately, or go to the nearest emergency room. Blunt force trauma to the eye can lead to vision-threatening eye conditions such as retinal detachment, dislocation of the crystalline lens, and increased intraocular pressure. Even a light blow to the eye can lead to damage.

  • Chemical Exposure or Burns

Symptoms may include: Pain or burning of the eye, watering eyes or changes in vision.

Immediately irrigate the eyes with cool running water for 20-30 minutes, keeping them open as much as possible. Damage from chemicals can occur very quickly and is considered a medical emergency. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. If possible, take a picture of the product that you were exposed to, so that you can provide this information to your doctor. 

  • Cut or punctured eye or eyelid

Symptoms may include: Bleeding, pain, vision loss, double vision. 

Do not attempt to clean or wash the eye. Place a sterile bandage or covering over the eye, taking care not to use pressure. Avoid materials which may stick to wounds, such as cotton pads. Do not take ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, or any other Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory (NSAID) medications, as these medications thin the blood and may cause excess bleeding. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. 

The best way to avoid eye injury is by wearing protective eyewear. Keep a pair of safety glasses in your house or anywhere you may be exposed to potential hazards, and use them diligently. Eye injuries are medical emergencies and may lead to permanent loss of sight, and protective eyewear is an easy and affordable way to prevent injury. Please note that the information in this blog is not to be taken as medical advice, and is not a replacement for medical care. If you sustain an eye injury, call 911 or go to the ER. 

References:

American Academy of Ophthalmology, https://www.aao.org/

American National Standards Institute, https://ansi.org/

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