Think of a very complex system you rely on, all day every day, that makes life immensely easier than living without it. You probably didn’t think of your eyesight. None of us intend to take vision for granted, but it is nearly impossible not to most of the time. Eye injuries get our attention.
The Gulf Coast Eye Institute is passionate about the community’s eye health, providing the Rio Grande Valley with quality medical care, treating eye injuries, eye infections, eye diseases, and eye conditions.
Common Eye Injuries Caused by External Trauma
Most traumatic eye injuries are work-related accidents or happen at sporting events. From blunt force to scratches, here is a breakdown of the types of eye injuries, and what to do and not do in the case of such an emergency.
Abrasions of the cornea: The cornea is the outermost lens of the eye and the most likely to get scratched. Minor scratches of the retina often heal on their own within a few days. If not, go to an ER or eye specialist. Whatever you do, do not touch or rub an injured eye!
The good thing about superficial injuries, is they generally come with easy-to-read signs and symptoms. Look out for: abnormal pain; the feeling that something is “in” the eye ( foreign object, particle, or the actual scratch on the lens); sensitivity to light; redness; teary eye; and/or headache. Minor injuries can become major if untreated.
Retinal detachment sounds scary, and it is. Exudative retinal detachment is when blood vessels leak and/or swell in the back of the eye. The fluid builds and has no outlet to disperse, therefore building pressure that pushes the retina. Retinal detachment is a common result of many things that don’t include accidents and injuries to the head and eyes. Tumors, Diabetes, rare diseases, even aging can cause it. Trauma to the head, however, can bring it on immediately.
Laser (thermal) or freezing (cryopexy) surgeries may be necessary, covered by most insurances, and should be scheduled ASAP, within days of a retinal detachment diagnosis.
If you have experienced any trauma to the head, even away from your actual eyes, your eyes may be affected. Monitor any post-injury swelling of the eyes, or anything that does not seem right. Headaches that do not subside on their own are worth a hospital examination. Remember, painkillers treat the symptom, not the cause. If your post-injury headache suddenly disappears after you take two Ibuprofen, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your eyes are not damaged.
Severe and untreated injuries to the retina (which contains the eye’s optic nerve that connects directly to the brain), are the leading cause of nongenetic blindness.
Causes and Effects of Common Eye Injuries
In addition to quickly traveling or dropping projectile objects resulting in major injuries, microscopic particles, such as dust, wood, and metal slivers, can also cause significant injury. Those working in construction, carpentry, welding, and a wide range of factories are most at risk.
High impact/close-contact sports involving numerous other players, primarily basketball, can result in all kinds of eye injuries. Bodies-in-motion can do as much or more damage than fastballs…
Watch out for flying foul balls, equipment, and excited (and potentially intoxicated) spectators!
You may not be surprised that most eye injuries among children ages four to fourteen are caused by sports, but did you know that sports are also the leading cause of blindness among this demographic? Baseball and basketball are the most ubiquitous, followed by sports involving rackets or ice.
The good news is that 90% of these injuries are preventable.
Safety Tips for Preventing Eye Injuries
- Assess the environments where you will be working/playing for potential hazards, first aid kits, and eye rinse stations if applicable.
- Confirm with an eye care professional that your vision is adequate for the activity.
- Protect yourself with the correct equipment and be familiar with emergency protocols.
- First Aid and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) should be provided by employers. If the proper PPE is not available at your work or recreational environment, and will not be made available, it is worth it to provide your own.
- Protective eyewear including glasses, goggles, lenses made with shatterproof plastic, and other safety features, are commonly available at hardware stores, sporting goods stores, specialty stores, and are easy to purchase online. Before buying, check your eyewear to ensure it meets the standards of the ASTM (American Society of Testing and Materials).
- While football and hockey are high-impact sports, players are customarily required to wear helmets, usually with durable barriers and wire shields, thus preventing many eye injuries.
- Regular sunglasses or prescription glasses may provide some barrier between the eye and chemicals as well as sharp or projectile objects, but they have the potential to become an additional hazard in the scenario a lens breaks.
Treating Eye Injuries: Better Safe than Sorry
Prevention is not always possible. If you are unsure whether or not an eye injury is emergency room-worthy, go. Stay informed, train your children in basic safety protocol, get the proper equipment, and do your best. Any eye injuries that occur require immediate treatment. Even if it’s only a superficial injury, treatment may prevent it from worsening.
Eye drops or topical medication, such as antibacterial or steroid, may need to be prescribed. Many injuries make the eye sensitive to light and vulnerable to bacteria. Eye patches, bandages/first-aid tape, and sunglasses come in handy to help prevent you from rubbing your eye, as well as protecting the eye from bright lights.
If you have acquired an eye injury or concussion and are unsure whether it’s too soon to return to your sport, consult your Primary Care Physician as well as your coach.
To best prevent eye injuries, you don’t need to avoid risks. Educate yourself and your loved ones; use common sense, and make safety protocol clear and protective equipment available.
For more eye care information specific to your job, sport, or hobby, call Gulf Coast Eye Institute in South Texas at 844-485-3202.