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Eye Safety: Save Your Vision

According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Work-Related Injury Statistics Query System (NIOSH Work-RISQS) database, there were 283,400 work-related eye injuries in 1999 (latest available statistics). Most of these injuries can cause vision impairment resulting in loss of time from work. Some injuries are severe enough to cause vision loss.

Traumas to the eye surface, eyeball, or eye socket are the most common injuries. The majority of these injuries are the result of objects striking, scraping, or puncturing the eye. These injuries can take place either in the work place, the sports field or in the home. Some of these injuries are severe enough that they result in loss of vision. Accidental splashing of chemicals or cleaning products into the eye can also cause trauma by causing irritation or chemical burns to the eye. These and other eye trauma injuries are easily prevented by wearing safety gear such as goggles, protective face shields, safety glasses, or in extreme cases full face respirators. Not only should protective eyewear be worn but it should be properly fitted to effectively protect against trauma to the eye. Protecting against sports-related injuries requires specific eyewear that is properly fitted, such as batting helmets made with polycarbonate face shields for youth baseball players.

Infectious diseases can also cause eye vision problems. These diseases are spread by exposure of the eye to infectious vectors. For example, a laboratory staff member may contract an infection by accidentally getting infected blood into their eyes. This type of exposure can cause diseases ranging from simple sore red eyes to life threatening diseases such as HIV. Following proper laboratory or workplace safety procedures, such as careful hand washing or wearing properly fitted eyewear, can protect against the spread of infectious diseases.

Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation from the sun can cause damage to eyes. The parts of the eye most commonly affected are the macula (a part of the retina), the cornea, and the lens. Continuous exposure to UV radiation can result in macular degeneration, which eventually leads to vision loss. Other conditions resulting from UV exposure include cataracts, skin cancer (around the eyelids), and corneal sunburn. It is possible to protect the eyes from the sun’s damaging radiation by wearing sunglasses that absorb and effectively block UV radiation. Besides wearing sunglasses, ophthalmologists recommend wearing brimmed hats to block some of the sun’s dangerous rays.

Regular check-ups can help prevent eye problems from worsening. Some conditions, when left untreated, may lead to blindness or vision loss. The foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that children between the ages of 3 and 19 have their eyes screened every one or two years, and adults between the ages of 20 and 39 should have their eyes checked at least twice, 10 years apart. The Academy also recommends that older adults should have a baseline eye screening at 40 years of age to evaluate their eye health. At that time the ophthalmologist can determine how often regular visits should be scheduled.

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