Permanent Vision Loss Can Happen In the Blink of An Eye

Jul 14, 2015, 10:57 ET from American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than two million people visit the nation's emergency departments each year because of eye injuries or eye infections.  Some of these problems cause damage that can never be reversed.  Emergency physicians want every American to practice good eye health in order to decrease that risk.

"Clearly, not every eye issue can be prevented — whether it is a result of an infection or perhaps an accident," said Dr. Michael Gerardi, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.  "But many of the injuries we treat in emergency rooms could have easily been prevented if only the patient used proper eye protection."

Eye injury awareness has been in the news recently.  Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) was seriously injured following a exercise injury in January that caused vision loss in his right eye, that may or may not be permanent and he has already undergone several surgeries.  Another report out of San Antonio, TX recently shows that a hospital there is seeing an increase in the amount of eye injuries in children caused by playing with BB or pellet guns.    

Quick Eye Statistics:

  • About 2.4 million eye-related visits were made to emergency departments each year, according to the CDC.
  • Each day, about 2,000 workers in the United States receive eye injuries that need medical treatment.
  • More than 600,000 eye injuries are related to sports and recreation,with about 42,000 of these requiring emergency care, according to The Coalition to Prevent Sports Eye Injuries
  • More than 90 percent of all eye injuries can be prevented with the use of protective eyewear, according to the organization Prevent Blindness America.
  • Americans make about 930,000 visits to doctor's offices and other clinics each year because of eye infections (CDC).

There are a number of ways that injuries to the eye can occur.  A few examples include:

  • A corneal abrasion or a scratched eye can happen when an eye is poked, rubbed with a foreign object or if something like sand or dust gets in and causes a scratch.  Minor cases can cause eye redness and sensitivity to light.
  • If a foreign object penetrates your eye, such as metal — you should visit the ER or a physician's office immediately.  Also, try not to remove the object yourself or rub it as it can cause more damage to your eye.
  • A chemical burn can cause damage to your eye, not to mention cause extreme pain.  If a chemical is splashed in the eye, put your head under a stream of lukewarm water for about 15 minutes and let water run into your eye, then go immediately to the ER or a physician's office for additional treatment. 

How to Protect Your Eyes:

  • Wash your hands regularly.  Habitually, people will rub their eyes and faces.  This is one of the ways infections can spread that could damage eyesight.
  • Wear protective goggles or facesheilds if using heavy machinery, or anything where projectiles can damage your eyes.
  • Wear the proper eye protection when playing certain contact sports in areas where objects can cause damage to your eyes.
  • If you wear contact lenses, don't sleep without taking them out first and properly clean and store them.
  • Protect your eyes from the sun and wear sunglasses with proper (UV) ultraviolet protection.
  • Get your eyes checked at least every two years or as often as an eye doctor recommends.

"You should treat all eye injuries as emergencies," said Dr. Gerardi. "Don't hesitate to see your doctor, an eye specialist or go the ER if you need immediate attention." 

ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies. 

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SOURCE American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)