"Vision is our dominant sense," according to Thomas Politzer, O.D., and former NORA President of the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association.
Humans rely on eyesight more than most other animals. Losing vision can cause many patients to journey through Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's stages of grief.
The Mayo Clinic points out that potential blindness is as near as the next wayward champagne bottle cork or backyard fireworks celebration.
In these six situations, careful attention to your surroundings and common sense precautions can help prevent the majority of serious eye injuries.
Children have to be trained to think about how they use their toys and where they point them. They don’t have the life experience yet not to know to throw pencils or point toys in people’s faces. Talking to kids about some common sense rules of thumb is a good idea.
And of course not all toys have the same risk factors for potential eye injury. There are many projectile-type toys that are riskier. This of course includes toy guns, bow and arrows, and launchers, but also consider the risk from water balloons, canned aerosol string gel, and laser pointers. Even toy swords and fishing poles that are not themselves projectiles can pose a risk when flailed around wildly.
The World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) each year issues its top 10 picks for toys with potential danger to eyes.
Chemical burns to eyes are a danger to people of all ages, but a Johns Hopkins study found that toddlers and young children are at highest risk. While acids are dangerous and cause immediate pain and swelling, basic (or alkali) chemicals can be more dangerous in the long run, although they don’t cause as much irritation or redness in the beginning.
Avoiding chemical burns from caustic substances means not just minimizing splashes, but also avoiding rubbing the eyes while handling chemicals. Be aware of the potential for transferring chemicals from the hands to the eyes inadvertently. Also, ensure that you’re using chemicals in a well-ventilated area.
The best thing to do if you suspect you’ve gotten a harmful substance into your eye is to flush it with water. Run room-temperature (not cold) water over your eye for 15 minutes. Put your face under the faucet and allow a gentle but constant stream of water to wash out your eye. Then seek medical attention. You may want to put a cold washcloth over your eye in the meantime. But do avoid rubbing your eye, as that may injure it further.
While chemical burns are dramatic and sudden, eye injury can result from digital eye strain over long periods of time.
Both at home and at work, we spend more time than ever in front of screens. Sitting too close to the screen can cause eye strain and blurry vision.
Low-resolution screens have the same effect, so use as high resolution as possible. Old prescriptions also cause eye strain over the long-term, so update your glasses or contact lenses regularly. Annual vision checks are recommended to keep your eyes working their best. You eye doctor can even provide a prescription for special glasses for computer work.
The lighting in the room should be only as bright as your monitor. If it’s brighter than that, you will experience eye strain over time.
Remember to blink regularly. “Computer stare” can be harmful.
Follow the 20-20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20 second pause to stare at something more than 20 feet away. And ensure that your mouse location, posture in your chair, and the rest of your physical position leave you with 20 inches of space between your eyes and the screen.
Every year, roughly 40,000 people visit the emergency room in the U.S. following a sports-related injury to the eye. But the good news is that there are better goggles, masks, and sports glasses that ever before, and a large part of those injuries are preventable using safety eyewear.
It is logical to think of high-contact sports as a potential setting for eye injury, and in fact new technologies exist to fit prescription lenses into helmets for football and hockey.
Other sports have their own options, with prescriptions available for ski masks, divers’ masks, swim goggles, hunter’s shooting glasses, and of course tinted sunglasses for outdoor sports.
Some features of these next-generation safety glasses include technologies like better ventilation. Less fogging will lead to fewer collisions in the first place and help reduce the risk of eye and other injuries.
Many of these sport-specific glasses are as close as your nearest Bard Optical location. Like any kind of prescription eyewear, they need to be fit to the individual and their eyes. Mayo Clinic recommends choosing protective eyewear labeled as ASTM F803-approved.
Falling is the number one cause of eye injury, according to research presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology, followed by fighting. While we should avoid getting into fist fights for many reasons, trying to avoid falls is trickier. Many of these falls occur when getting out of bed in the middle of the night.
To reduce your risk of a dangerous fall, ensure that you sit up and take a moment to become alert enough to walk. Keeping the path to the door and in the hallway clear of any small objects, and avoid placing furniture edges too close to that pathway. Make sure rugs are not slippery, and provide nightlights on the way to areas like the kitchen and bathroom.
Another fall-prone area is the stairway. Proper lighting in stairwells is the best way to ensure that you avoid slipping on the edge of a stair and tumble down the rest. Instead of trying the stairs in the dark, flick on that light switch to keep your footing sure. Ensure that railings are secured firmly to the wall.
6. DIY Projects
Yard work and home repair can be potential sources of injury to fingers, feet, legs, and just about any part of the body.
Eyes are often overlooked in applying safety precautions. Goggles or safety glasses are the best way to prevent injury. Crafters or hobbyists who work with their face close to their project should be alert for unexpected debris.
This risk is greater when working on something above the head, as gravity pulls small particles and liquids down, potentially into your face or eyes.
Sanding, drilling, soldering, and woodworking are all activities in which safety goggles should be worn. Flying fragments from power tools are a danger, as are branches and brush in the yard.
Even accidental fingernail scratches are more common when doing many household chores.
Protect your eyes next time you do any of these activities.