Eye protection
A military member holds protective eyewear to sheild his eyes from debris. The chances of eye injuries increase greatly during the summer months with more outdoor activities from yard work to fireworks to field time.

FORT SILL, Okla. -- July is Eye Injury Prevention month, and that is not by coincidence.

Summer is a time of increased outdoor activities; from yard work and home maintenance, to sports and Fourth of July fireworks, the chances of eye injuries increase greatly during the summer months.

"Almost half of all eye injuries happen around the house. Many people think injuries happen on the job or at work, but it's half on the job and half at home. It all depends on the activity you are doing," said Dr. (Capt.) Steven Klein, Reynolds Army Community Hospital optometrist. "When a person is using any type of power tools nailing, sanding, grinding, cutting, welding, etc., there is a potential for eye injuries.

"A lot of people don't wear eye protection even when they have it available, and bad things can happen when they don't wear protection. They think regular eyeglasses will be adequate protection. That is better than nothing, but not really safe. The lenses in most eyeglasses are made of polycarbonate plastic, which is shatter-resistant to a degree. But there are forms of protection that are much better," he said.

Klein recommends wearing safety goggles to protect the eyes from flying objects and debris while working, especially nailing. He said this type of protection can be purchased for a few dollars at a home improvement store.

"We get people who have been working on their cars and they are doing some welding, and they sustain an eye injury. They may have been wearing eye protection previously, but they realize they have one last weld to do and they do it in a hurry without an eye shield. That's when an eye injury can occur. Welding without a mask, even for just a few seconds, can lead to a severe eye injury," Klein said.

"Besides the sparks and brightness from the welding, there is a risk of inflammation of the cornea, which is the clear part on the front of the eye. The nerves of the eye are in the front part of the cornea and when that gets injured, it is like a paper cut on the eye, and it is quite painful. That's were a welder's face shield with dark glass is very important."

Klein said that The American Academy of Ophthalmology states that that three out of five people who sustain eye injuries were not wearing protection when the injury occurred. He also said that 90 percent of eye injuries are preventable.

There are potential risks for eye injuries from sports, especially racquetball and paintball. It is a good idea to always wear eye protection for any action sport that involves a ball; a sports instrument (bat, racquet or other); or a projectile (baseball, paintball, etc.). Anyone participating in shooting sports should also have eye protection, Klein said.

"Even if you are just outside, or you are at the beach, the mountains or the lake, you should wear eye protection with the proper polarized lenses to reduce strain and damage to your eyes.

Any good polarized lens will block the sun's UV (ultraviolet) rays from entering your eyes. And it reduces eyestrain from glare even on overcast days," Klein added.

"Adequate full-face eye protection should also be worn while working with chemicals that are either acid (drain cleaners, vehicle batteries, etc.) or a base (caustic cleansers, solvents, etc.). If you do sustain an eye injury and chemicals splash into your eyes, immediately flush the eye area with running water. Continue to flush until the chemical has been washed out of the eye. Then go to your doctor's office or the nearest emergency/urgent care clinic for treatment," Klein said.

"If you come to the Urgent Care clinic at RACH, the doctors and nurses will be able to respond to the injury. If it is of a severe nature, an ophthalmologist will be brought in."

Here are some facts about eye injury:
More than one million people suffer an eye injury each year.
More than 2,000 eye injuries occur each day, with over 50 percent of injuries occurring outside of the workplace.
Direct exposure to sunlight adds to the cumulative effects of ultraviolet radiation on the eyes.
Prolonged UV exposure has been linked to eye disease and disorders.

Also, here are two simple habits that can protect your eyes:

Wear sunglasses regularly. Get the proper UV protection for your eyes and wear them when you are outdoors.

Wear safety glasses regularly. Protect your eyes while you work around the house or participate in sports.

These two tips can help eliminate 90 percent of eye injuries and help prevent disease caused by cumulative damage to the eyes from the sun.

Your eyes are very important. Make sure nothing takes your sight away from you.

For more information, go to www.preventblindness.org and look under "Eye Health and Safety," or consult with your primary care physician.

Page last updated Thu July 3rd, 2014 at 12:06