The Free Press, Mankato, MN

July 27, 2013

Protect your eyes, window to the soul


The Mankato Free Press

---- — “The eyes are the window to the soul.” While scientific evidence may not back this proverbial statement, it alludes to the fact that eyes are very important. Your eyes are responsible for providing you with vision, perhaps the most important of the senses. However, the eye is a delicate and complicated structure that needs protection. The ugly truth is that eye injuries can happen at any time and place – not just at work. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, nearly half of all eye injuries occur at home.

Fortunately, taking preventive measures will help you avoid eye injuries, and understanding when to seek medical care can improve prognosis and aid in recovery. Here are some tips to help you keep your eyes safe:

1. Prevention

* Wear appropriate eye protection. Though there isn’t a need to wear safety goggles every waking moment, there are certain activities that require eye protection. Always wear a form of eye protection while playing sports that involve a ball, flying object, racquet, stick or bat. Also, wear safety goggles with side shields when working on or being exposed to projects where chemicals, dust, flying objects or airborne particles are present.

* Cook with care. Utilize grease shields when cooking to help prevent grease and oil splatters.

* Avoid at-home fireworks. Fireworks are fun and quite the spectacle, but professionals should handle them.

* Be mindful of household chemicals. Many cleaning products pose a risk for eye injury and irritation. Read the labels carefully, keep chemicals away from your kids and never mix cleaning products.

* Reduce falls in your home. Falling on a table corner or furniture edge can cause severe trauma to your head, including your eyes. Make sure your railings and rugs are secure to help reduce falls. Additionally, think about covering sharp corners and edges with some form of cushioning.

* Practice good judgment when purchasing toys. Forgo toys with darts, arrows or other projectile pieces. And keep your kids away from BB and pellet guns until they are officially trained in firearm safety.

* Pop your corks carefully. Champagne corks can fire out of a bottle very quickly. Be sure to practice proper cork removal – including not shaking the bottle, holding it away from yourself and others, and keeping slight downward pressure on the cork as it comes out of the bottle.

* Wear the right sunglasses. Wearing sunglasses with 99 to 100 percent ultraviolet (UV) protection greatly reduces risk of UV damage to your cornea, lens and other parts of the eye.

2. Signs your eye may require medical attention. It’s important to seek the care of a trained health care professional if you notice these symptoms:

* A cut or tear on the eyelid

* Trouble with vision

* Obvious pain

* A protruding eye

* Blood in the white of the eye

* An object in the eye or eyelid that is difficult to remove

* Unusual pupil shape or size

Diagnosing and treating an eye condition early is the best way to ensure recovery. Don’t hesitate to visit your health care provider if you have concerns about an eye injury or condition.

3. What to do if you suffer an eye injury. Again, seek medical care immediately. Neglecting to do so can potentially lead to long-term eye damage and even blindness.

Here are a few things to help lessen the chance of further damage prior to reaching your health care provider:

* Refrain from touching or rubbing your eye.

* Don’t put any medication or ointment on your eye.

* If there is an object in your eye or eyelid that isn’t easily removable, don’t try to take it out.

* Flush out chemicals with clean water.

Good vision helps you live a more active and enjoyable life. By using these tips, you can help keep your eyes healthy and continue to visualize all that the world has to offer.

Daniel Peterson, M.D., is a Mayo Clinic Health System ophthalmologist.

For more information, please go to www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org.

Health & Fitness coverage is supported by Mayo Clinic Health System, preserving the health and well-being of southern Minnesota communities.