Two Eyes Are Better Than One - The Importance of Eye Injury Prevention

​Dr. Avni Finn, retinal specialist the Vanderbilt Eye Institute, discusses common types of eye injuries and how best to prevent them.

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SHAINA FARFEL:  Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness Wellcast.  I am Shaina Farfel with Occupational Health.   
Today, we are speaking with Dr. Avni Finn, Assistant Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Retinal Specialist at Vanderbilt Eye Institute.  Thanks for joining us today, Dr. Finn.  

Avni Finn, M.D.:  Thank you for having me on here, Shaina.  
SHAINA FARFEL:  So, Dr. Finn, can you start by telling us what the most common causes of eye injuries are and where they most frequently occur?  

AVNI FINN, M.D.:  I would like to start by just saying this is a really important topic because eye injuries can be really serious, even causing vision loss or blindness when we least expect it.  So, to answer your question, some of the most common eye injuries can be blows from balls during sports, from hands during contact sports, flying objects like bungee cords during exercise and then other types of things during industrial work such as metal or nail pieces, BBs from guns we see a lot, bullets, darts, fireworks and then also chemical splashes or injuries which are really important, kind of in the population that we are all working with.  These can affect all different parts of the eyes.  Chemical splashes often effect the surface of the eye, the conjunctiva, and the cornea.  Metallic pieces can be lodged into the cornea but can also get deeper into the eye as well and the flying objects like bungee cords and BBs can affect any part of the eye from causing damage and bleeding inside the eye to causing retinal detachments or even effecting the orbit surrounding the eye.  
SHAINA FARFEL:  How can we best prevent eye injuries?  Can I, let's say, wear my regular glasses, my sunglasses, would that do the trick or what is the recommendation there?
AVNI FINN, M.D.:  So, regular glasses and sunglasses do not offer much protection when you are at higher risk for eye injuries because they are not shatterproof and often times even the glass from the glasses breaking can also injury your eye.  So, when you are performing or participating in activities that are higher risk, like contact sports, working with chemicals or other types of work where there may be flying particles such as objects or dust, you should really wear safety glasses that have side shields.  And for chemical work, we recommend goggles.  The other thing I would say is if you have children, it is also really important to supervise the use of any tools with your children, like scissors, forks, pencils and knives which can all cause eye injuries and also keeping chemicals away from children at all times.
SHAINA FARFEL:  Absolutely.  That is a really good reminder.  Let's say I do get an eye injury.  Are there any first-aid measures that I, myself, may be able to take at home to improve symptoms or prevent any further complications?
AVNI FINN, M.D.:  Yes, definitely.  So, I think the most important thing to remember is if you get something in the eye, I would try not to rub the eye and try not to apply any pressure in the eye.  Particularly if it appears that an object is stuck or has penetrated into the eye, you do not want to attempt to remove it.  So if you think there has been a penetrating injury, you should place a shield over the eye and seek immediate medical attention.  For chemical burns and splashes, the most important thing to do is to immediately flush the eye with clear water as much as you can and then to seek emergency care.  It is also really helpful if you can bring in any information you know about the chemical that got into the eye so that we know if it is an acid or a base and that can further inform the type of injury we are looking for and treatment.  Also, if you are hit by something in the eye, again do not apply pressure to the eye, and if you have any visual disturbance, again, seek care of an ophthalmologist to ensure there is no retinal detachment. And I think in any circumstance if you are having visual symptoms and your concerned at all seeking immediate emergency care or the care of an ophthalmologist is really important.
SHAINA FARFEL:  And as a reminder to folks too, we at Occupational Health are also happy to be first line for folks who may have an injury that happened here at work to the eye and typically we are referring over to the Eye Institute as well, but folks can always come to us.  You touched on this too kind of already, but certainly there are things that are appropriate to do at home.  Any specific signs or symptoms that people should look out for that would really necessitate going and seeing an ophthalmologist that you can tell people about?
AVNI FINN, M.D.:  Some of the symptoms, I think, that should lead you either to Occupational Health or to an ophthalmologist would be severe pain in the eye, like a foreign body sensation, like a grittiness that feels more severe than that, like something is stuck in the eye or under the lid.  Obviously, any sort of blurry vision or loss of vision in either part or all of your field of vision. That can be accompanied by flashing lights or floaters, as well if you have a cut or tear in the eyelid, any difficulty moving your eye or protrusion of the eye, and then usual pupil size and shape.  We may not notice visual symptoms, but you might see that your pupil is a different size or a different shape than normal and then lastly any blood or haziness in the clear part of your eye.
SHAINA FARFEL:  Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us today.  We are really lucky to have such a wonderful resource as the Vanderbilt Eye Institute right here on campus and for everybody listening, please, please remember to always, always wear eye protection when appropriate whether it is at home or on the job.  Thank you so much again.
AVNI FINN, M.D.:  Thank you.    
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