If they don’t work in factories or play contact sports, your patients may not think about eye injuries or how to prevent them. Yet thousands of Americans are treated each year for serious eye injuries, nearly half of which occurred at home, according to a recent public survey conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Ocular Trauma. Other misconceptions about eye injuries abound. Given that October is Eye Injury Prevention Month, this is a great time to educate your patients on eye injury facts and best practices.
1. Falls are the leading cause of eye injury, especially for seniors
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) tracked ocular trauma in thousands of patients aged 0 to 80 over a 10-year period. Falls were the number-one culprit, and most of the falls recorded happened to those 60 and older. Slipping and falling down stairs were cited as the top causes of eye injury. Consider sharing fall-prevention tips with your older patients.
2. Eye injury treatment costs are skyrocketing
Serious ocular trauma includes orbital fractures and being pierced by objects. These injuries can be expensive to treat. According to the AAO, researchers found that the cost to treat eye injuries at hospitals rose by 62 percent during the 10-year period and now exceeds $20,000 per injury. In many cases, these injuries are preventable.
3. Wearing protective eyewear is the easiest step to prevent eye injuries
Cooking, cleaning with chemicals, home improvement projects, and yard work are all common household tasks that can pose risks to the eyes. These risks can be minimized by wearing protective eyewear. Glasses, goggles, or face shields marked with “ANSI Z87.1” meet the American National Standards Institute safety standard. ANSI-approved protective eyewear can be purchased from most hardware stores.
4. Some sports are especially risky
More than 40 percent of eye injuries every year are related to sports or recreational activities, reports the AAO. Particularly high-risk sports include baseball, basketball, and racquet sports. Most injuries occurring in school-aged children are sports-related, and 90 percent of these injuries can be avoided with protective eyewear, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI). You may want to review the NEI’s protective eyewear recommendations for each sport with your patients.
5. Never attempt to treat an eye injury yourself
It’s crucial for doctors to tell patients to seek out medical treatment for any eye injury immediately, even if the injury seems minor. Failure to do so can result in permanent vision loss. Teach patients how to recognize an eye injury, and what to do next. Consider posting this information on your website or Facebook page for easy access by patients and their families.
Don’t wait until patients bring it up to talk about eye injuries. Because they are common and often preventable, proactive patient education can help patients avoid these dangerous and costly injuries in the first place.