Preventing Eye Injuries

By Kristen Behrens, OD, Optometrist


Image credit: Today’s Facility Manager

Injuries to the eyes are common. Eye injuries can occur at work, while playing sports, or as a result of normal day-to-day activities. According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 2,000 workers sustain eye injuries on the job each day. Many of these occupational injuries result in one or more days of work lost.

Sports related eye injuries, according to the National Eye Institute, account for nearly 100,000 medical visits yearly. Approximately one third of these sports related eye injuries involve children. The National Eye Institute reports that baseball is the leading cause of eye injuries in children under 14, while basketball is the leading cause of eye injuries in children aged 15 to 24.

There are several different ways eye injuries may occur. Small objects, like dust, wood chips, or fragments of glass, may project toward the eyes from occupational equipment, may be blown into the eyes by the wind, or may fall into the eyes from above a worker. These small objects may cause scratches, or abrasions, to the surface of the eye. Larger objects, or objects that project toward the eyes at higher speeds, may penetrate the surface of the eye, causing a rupture to the globe. This may lead to permanent vision loss. Blunt trauma to the eye socket, such as a blow from a baseball or an elbow, may cause fractures to the bones surrounding the eye, as well as inflammation, hemorrhages, or retinal detachments. Chemicals or radiation, for example from cleaning products, welding sparks, or overexposure to UV light, may lead to burns to the eyes.

It is important to prevent eye injuries from occurring by wearing the appropriate eye protection while on the job or while playing sports. Prescription eye glasses are not an adequate form of eye protection. Goggles, face shields, and safety glasses that are approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) should be worn by workers at risk for occupational eye injuries. Adults, and especially children, should wear the approved eye protection for sports.

If an eye injury occurs, it is important to see an eye doctor promptly. Most eye injuries can be treated with topical eye drops or ointments. Rupture of the eyeball or retinal detachments are emergencies and will be referred to the appropriate eye specialist.  Any eye injury, no matter how minor it seems should be evaluated by an eye care provider.

To learn more about occupational or sports related eye injuries or the use of appropriate eye protection, please reference the following links:

Occupational Safety and Health Adminstration: Eye and Face Protection

CDC Workplace Safety and Health Topics: Eye Health