Common Eye Injuries and How to Avoid and Treat Them
Considering how small your eyes are compared to the rest of your body, it’s almost shocking how often we tend to injure them! No matter what it is we’re doing, we’re most likely focusing our eyes directly on the task at hand, often just over top of it. Thinking of it that way, maybe it’s not that shocking after all…
Your body reacts as quickly as it can to protect your eyes when it senses danger, but oftentimes even the corneal reflex, or blink reflex, which occurs at a rate of 0.1 seconds, can be a mere tenth of a second too late!
One obvious solution – safety glasses. Whether you need prescription safety glasses or not, a well-fitted pair of safety glasses can mean the painful difference between foresight and hindsight, the latter being famously 20/20.
Bruises, burns, punctures, swelling, and scratches are generally the culprits we’re talking about when it comes to eye injuries. Each can vary widely in severity depending on the circumstances, but none of which are good no matter how you look at it.
Eye Swelling and Bruising
The classic black eye. The unmistakable mark that something has made serious contact with your eye and/or the area around your eye. A black eye is expressed by both swelling and bruising and is treated immediately with a cold compress or ice pack. The cold constricts the blood vessels around the eye, decreasing circulation in the area and reducing the swelling. After the swelling has subsided it generally takes about two weeks for the bruising to heal.
Also known as corneal abrasions, you’ll usually know when something has scratched your eye, because unlike a scratch on your arm, you will continue to feel the discomfort of a corneal abrasion, the nature of which could require emergency care so it’s important to visit your eye doctor as soon as possible if you suspect you have scratched your eye.
Scratches to your eye are often caused by rubbing your eye when a foreign object is present. Anything from sand, dust, splinters of wood or metal can scratch the eye. When you know there is a foreign object in your eye, it’s best you don’t rub it to try to get it out, but rather flush and rinse your eye as with an eye wash or over a sink with cool water or saline solution for at least 15 minutes until you’re certain you have flushed your eyes clean. If you wear contacts, flush your eyes, and gently remove your contact lenses with clean hands while continuing to flush your eyes. If flushing your eye doesn’t remove all contaminants, or if flushing your eye is not possible, it’s best to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Untreated scratches to your eye could lead to infection so even if you do successfully flush your eyes of all foreign objects, it is always a good idea to have your eye doctor examine any corneal abrasions and recommend treatment as needed.
Eye Punctures or Penetrations
It’s probably enough to simply say punctures and penetrations for you to know this cannot be good. Whether it’s a splinter of wood, a fishhook or anything else, if you’ve punctured or penetrated your eye with anything, seek medical attention immediately!
Chemical Eye Burns
Many of us may be exposed to various chemicals at work or at home that may be harmful to the eye. It’s a good idea to read all labels and safety data on any liquids you may be working with and wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and safety goggles when using any chemicals that may be caustic to skin or eyes.
Chemicals are generally broken into two categories – acid and alkali.
Acid – Acids can cause considerable amounts of redness and burning but can be washed out of the eye fairly easily.
Alkali – Chemicals or substances that are basic (alkali) are much more serious but may not immediately seem so as they don’t cause an instantaneous reaction like eye pain or redness like acids do. Some examples of alkali substances are oven cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners and even chalk dust.
Splashes of liquids or chemicals in your eyes is a fairly common occurrence. Just as with foreign object, rinsing and flushing your eyes for 15 minutes is recommended if you splash a foreign liquid in your eye. Reading the label before using any liquid chemical will also provide advice on treating any accidental skin or eye exposure.
Whenever redness, burning, or itching persists, or if you are at all uncertain about the severity of your chemical contact, seek medical attention immediately.
Protect Your Eyes
Suffice it to say, it’s highly recommended that you don’t get anything in your eyes that doesn’t expressly belong there! Wear safety goggles whenever your exposure to chemicals or flying debris is heightened and see your eye doctor as soon as you can after any significant eye injury. You only have two, so protect them both!!