Recently, I visited my favorite place in Maine. It’s a little camp off a dirt road 2 miles into the woods. It’s wonderfully serene, but there’s a price. You must take care. Lack of precaution or carelessness can have disastrous results, and help can be long in coming.

It’s really not that much different from protecting our eyes at home or on the playing field. Our homes may seem like safe places, but there are dangers. Nearly half of all eye injuries occur at home. However, only 35 percent of people use protective eyewear during activities that could result in ocular trauma, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). Protective eyewear can reduce the risk of injury by 90 percent during activities such as using household cleaning products, working on the car, working with power tools that can turn small objects into projectiles and doing yard work where twigs, branches and power equipment can be dangerous.

A study by the Wilmer Eye Institute (at Johns Hopkins University) found that 8 percent of ocular traumas requiring hospitalization happened because the patient fell. It is the leading cause of eye injury, especially for people over 60. That means recommending eye protection and making patients alert to many home and yard hazards that could cause injury. Things like the loose stair rail you meant to fix or a rug that bunches up or slides can lead to falls resulting in orbital fractures. More information on the study is on the AAO website.

Remember that the first pair of bifocals, progressives or even single vision glasses can be disorienting for patients. They may feel uncertain about stepping off a curb or have peripheral distortion that makes them feel wobbly. We can do our best work by making sure the prescription and adjustments are right, that the lens and frame choice is the best for the patient’s visual needs, and that the patient knows how to use the glasses before leaving the office.

Recreational sports pose eye injury risks, too, and the casual athlete is less likely to use protective eyewear than the pros. When it comes to sports, the AAO warns that the greatest number of injuries occurred while patients were playing baseball, basketball and racquet sports. Many people think their eyeglasses will protect them, and contact lens wearers may not even think of protection at all because they don’t wear glasses.

We’re the professionals. We must not only remind our patients to think about their eyes, but offer them solutions with protective eyewear.

Linda Conlin
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