Eye protection: three ways you can protect your eyes

Photo courtesy of StoneHouseSigns.com

Photo courtesy of StoneHouseSigns.com

For many people, eye protection is an afterthought until an unfortunate event occurs. Your local optometrist will be happy to help you if an injury occurs, but you can save yourself significant aggravation by shielding your eyes from a potential injury.

Consider the following three scenarios:

1. You spent a beautiful day skiing on the slopes. The day was special due to fresh powder, clear blue skies, and laughter with friends. While reflecting on the day later that evening, you start to notice eye pain and your vision becomes blurry.

2. It’s Saturday morning, and you are rushing to clean the house before some guests arrive. While scrubbing a toilet, some of the water splashes up into your eye. The water had been mixed with toilet bowl cleaner. You notice an immediate burning sensation and blurry vision.

3. Spring has inspired you to do some yard-work. You start by trimming hedges and branches that have become over-grown during the winter months. One of the branches unexpectedly falls toward your face, scratching your eye before it lands on the ground. Your eye is tearing profusely and you are in tremendous pain.

In each of these three cases, the person will need to seek medical attention from an eye doctor for resolution. More important, all three of these injuries would have been avoided with proper protective eyewear.

In the first case, the eye was burned by harmful ultraviolent wavelengths (UV) of light. The eyes can be shielded from harmful UV ray by choosing lenses which block these wavelengths. Be sure to keep this fact in mind next time you shop for sunglasses. Recent studies are also demonstrating that our eye can be damaged by the rays emitted by computer, phone, and tablet screens. Your optometrist can help guide your choices to ensure the proper combination of protection and function.

The second case involved an alkaline chemical burn. Even when the eye is flushed and treated properly, the burn results in significant pain and the potential for permanent scarring. A simple pair of safety lenses can shield your eyes from this type of injury.

Finally, the tree branch in the third example caused a corneal abrasion. Tremendous pain and risk of infection are associated with corneal abrasions. There are endless scenarios in which an airborne object can cause an injury to the eye or to the tissues surrounding the eyes. The injuries can be superficial abrasions or scratches as described in the yard-work example, or they can involve blunt force injuries such as impact with a ball while playing a sport. Certain occupations such as automobile mechanics, construction workers, and machine operators involve an especially high risk for eye injuries due to the nature of their work. Safety glasses can protect you from industrial injuries when engaging in these activities.

The Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) has set federal standards for safety eyewear in the workplace, and employers are required to provide proper protection for employees whose jobs involve exposure to eye health hazards. Employers will provide eyewear which incorporates the employee’s spectacle prescription if needed. There are frame and lens requirements designated by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) which will ensure that the safety glasses provided by your employer meet the standards for adequate protection.

If you are unsure what to wear for a specific activity, be sure to seek guidance from your optometrist. We enjoy educating our patients and we can demonstrate proper protection in our offices. Last but not least, please don’t hesitate to call your optometrist if you experience an eye injury. Although we prefer to help you avoid the injury altogether, we will certainly guide you through the healing process as quickly as possible.

~ Lisa Heuer, O.D.
California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org
http://www.eyehelp.org

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The Blinding Cost of Diabetes – It’s Time to Fight Back!

Do you know someone with diabetes? I bet you do. In fact, over 25.6 million Americans over 20 years old suffer from diabetes, which costs over $250 million in health care spending for Type 2 alone.

Image Courtesy of The National Eye Institute

Image Courtesy of The National Eye Institute

So why do optometrists care so much about this condition?

Well, unfortunately, diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss in working age patients. So, not only do thousands of my patients have diabetes, including my father, they are all at risk for debilitating vision loss. Considering that this condition hits so close to home for me, I have made it my mission to reach out to the community and remind everyone of the importance of a yearly dilated eye examination.

By checking your eyes, optometrists can find early changes in the retinal blood vessels. These changes can include small areas of blood and fluid leakage as well as areas that are not getting the blood they need to survive. If these changes get bad enough, new blood vessels start to grow that are even more prone to leakage. Soon, without treatment, people lose their sight. The scary part is that most of these changes occur silently and without pain until it is too late to salvage what’s left of the person’s vision. The fortunate part is that if caught early, treatment can slow and sometimes halt the progression. This problem is so important that primary care doctors are now graded on the percentage of patients they refer for a yearly dilated examination.

So please, if you have diabetes, do the following:

  1. Find the time to visit an eye care professional for your yearly examination.
  2. Show up to all of your scheduled appointments for your primary care doctor.
  3. Take your medicine!
  4. Be honest with your doctors if you are struggling.
  5. Exercise in any safe manner.  Do what interests you.
  6. Know your number!  Check your blood sugar and ask your doctor for a goal.
  7. Study and eat a proper diabetic diet.  That does not just mean not eating sweets.  Ask a dietician or your doctor for advice.

Look, I know from personal experience that it is easier said than done, but keeping up with these seven principles can save your vision and extend your life.  Also, if you have a family member with diabetes, please help me spread the word!

Thank you,

~ David C. Ardaya, O.D.
California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org
http://www.eyehelp.org