optometrists are expanding their traditional roles to include other
areas that affect eye health, such as nutrition. Research has shown that
nutrition can impact the development of cataracts and age-related
macular degeneration (AMD), which are the two leading causes of
blindness and visual impairment among millions of aging Americans.
Nutrition may be particularly important given that currently, treatment
options after diagnosis for these eye diseases are limited.
Eye protection should be a major concern to all athletes
you wish you could cut a few strokes off your golf score? Does your
child always seem to be just a few steps away from the soccer ball?
Having trouble returning your tennis partner's serve? Vision, just like
speed and strength, is an important component in how well you play your
And there is much more to vision
than just seeing clearly. Your vision is composed of many interrelated
skills that can affect how well you play your sport. However, just as
exercise and practice can increase your speed and strength, it can also
improve your visual fitness and accuracy.
all sports have different visual demands, an optometrist with expertise
in sports vision can assess your unique visual system and recommend the
proper eyeglasses or contact lenses, or design a vision therapy program
to maximize your visual skills for your specific sport. Remember, a
thorough eye examination by your doctor of optometry is a great place to
begin "getting the winning edge."
Eye protection should also be
a major concern to all athletes, especially in certain high-risk
sports. Thousands of children and adults suffer sports-related eye
injuries each year, and nearly all can be prevented by using the proper
protective eyewear. Especially for sports played outdoors, appropriate
sunglasses are a must, and some sport-specific designs may even help you
improve your game. Ask your optometrist which type is best suited for
your favorite sport.
Eye injuries in the workplace are very
common. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
(NIOSH) reports about 2,000 U.S. workers sustain job-related eye
injuries that require medical treatment each day. However, safety
experts and eye doctors believe the right eye protection could have
lessened the severity or even prevented 90% of these eye injuries.
Protect your eyesSimply using the proper eye protection on the job could prevent thousands of eye injuries each year.
eye injuries occurring at work can result from chemicals or foreign
objects in the eye and cuts or scrapes on the cornea. Other causes of
injuries include splashes with grease and oil, burns from steam,
ultraviolet or infrared radiation exposure, and flying wood or metal
In addition, health care workers,
laboratory and janitorial staff, and other workers may be at risk of
acquiring infectious diseases from eye exposure. Some infectious
diseases can be transmitted through the mucous membranes of the eye as a
result of direct exposure to blood splashes, respiratory droplets
generated during coughing, or from touching the eyes with contaminated
fingers or other objects.
Two major reasons workers experience eye injuries on the job are because they were:
- Not wearing eye protection, or
- Wearing the wrong kind of protection for the job.
A Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey of workers who suffered eye injuries revealed that nearly three out of five were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident. These workers most often reported that
they believed protection was not required for the situation.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires the use
of eye and face protection whenever there is a reasonable probability of
injury that could be prevented by such equipment. Personal protective
eyewear, such as goggles, face shields, safety glasses, or full face
respirators must be used when an eye hazard exists. The eye protection
chosen for specific work situations depends upon the type of hazard, the
circumstances of exposure, other protective equipment used, and
individual vision needs.
What are the potential eye hazards at work?
Potential eye hazards against which protection is needed in the workplace are:
- Projectiles (dust, concrete, metal, wood and other particles)
- Chemicals (splashes and fumes)
- Radiation (especially visible light, ultraviolet radiation, heat or infrared radiation, and lasers)
- Bloodborne pathogens (hepatitis or HIV) from blood and body fluids
Some working conditions include multiple eye hazards. The proper eye protection takes all hazards into account.
best methods of eye protection differ for each type of hazard. The
protector must be matched to the potential hazard. High risk occupations
for eye injuries include:
- auto repair
- electrical work
The type of safety eye protection you should wear depends on the hazards in your workplace:
you are working in an area that has particles, flying objects, or dust,
you must at least wear safety glasses with side protection (side
- If you are working with chemicals, you must wear goggles
you are working near hazardous radiation (welding, lasers, or fiber
optics) you must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face
shields, or helmets designed for that task
In addition, employers need to take steps to make the work environment as safe as possible. This includes:
- Conducting an eye hazard assessment of the workplace
- Removing or reducing eye hazards where possible
- Providing appropriate safety eyewear and requiring employees to wear it
optometrist can assist your employer and you in evaluating potential
eye hazards in your workplace and determining what type of eye
protection may be needed. See AOA's Occupational Vision Manual for more information.
How can I protect my eyes from injury?
There are four things you can do to protect your eyes from injury:
- Know the eye safety dangers at your work.
- Eliminate hazards before starting work by using machine guards, work screens or other engineering controls.
- Use proper eye protection.
- Keep your safety eyewear in good condition and have it replaced if it becomes damaged.
of protective eyewear appropriate for a given task should be made based
on a hazard assessment of each activity. Types of eye protection
- Non-prescription and prescription safety glasses — Although safety glasses may look like normal dress eyewear, they are
designed to provide significantly more eye protection. They have lenses
and frames that are much stronger than regular eyeglasses. Safety
glasses must meet standards of the American National Standards Institute
(ANSI). Look for the Z87 mark on the lens or frame.
Safety glasses provide eye protection for general working conditions
where there may be dust, chips or flying particles. Additional side
protection can be provided by the use of side shields and
wraparound-style safety glasses.
Safety lenses are available in glass, plastic, polycarbonate and
Trivex™ materials. While all four types must meet or exceed the minimum
requirements for protecting your eyes, polycarbonate lenses provide the
highest level of protection from impact.
- The shield provided by goggles protects eyes from chemical splashes and ocular exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
- Goggles —
Goggles provide impact, dust and chemical splash protection. Like
safety glasses, safety goggles are highly impact resistant. In addition,
they provide a secure shield around the entire eye and protect against
hazards coming from any direction.
Goggles can be worn over prescription glasses and contact lenses to
provide protection from flying objects and chemical splashes and in
- Face shields and helmets — Full face
shields are used to protect workers exposed to chemicals, heat, or
bloodborne pathogens. Helmets are used for welding or working with
molten materials. Face shields and helmets should not be used as the
sole means of protective eyewear. They need to be used in conjunction
with safety glasses or goggles. Wearing safety glasses or goggles under
face shields also provides protection when the shield is lifted.
- Special protection — Other types of
protection, such as helmets or goggles with special filters to protect
the eyes from optical radiation exposure, should be used for tasks such
as welding or working with lasers.
way to ensure that safety glasses provide adequate protection is to be
sure they fit properly. Also, eye protection devices must be properly
maintained. Scratched and dirty devices reduce vision, cause glare and
may contribute to accidents.
eyewear works best when you know how to use it properly. Combined with
machine guards, screened or divided work stations, and other engineering
controls, using the correct protective eyewear can help keep you safe
from any type of eye hazard.
Can contact lenses be worn safely for industrial jobs?
While contact lenses cannot provide significant protection from
ocular hazards in the workplace, the improved vision many patients
experience can have a positive impact on workplace safety.
lenses can't provide significant protection from eye hazards in the
work place. However, there is no evidence that the wearing of contact
lenses increases the risk of eye injury.
lenses may actually contribute to worker safety and productivity
because they often provide improved vision in the workplace. Individuals
who wear contact lenses usually obtain a wider field of vision than
with eyeglasses and often have less visual distortion, especially with
higher power lens prescriptions. In addition, wearing contact lenses
instead of eyeglasses can provide a better, more comfortable fit of eye
safety equipment, such as goggles and full face respirators.
The American Optometric Association believes (see the AOA Guidelines for the Use of Contact Lenses in Industrial Environments)
that workers should be permitted to wear contact lenses in most eye
hazardous environments. However, eye protection must be worn over
contact lenses exactly as would be required of all workers performing
the same job.
Contact lenses may be worn
safely under a variety of environmental situations. In some cases, such
as when hazardous chemical fumes are present, a determination of
contact lens wear may need to be made on a case by case basis. Check
with your employer on their safety policy regarding the wearing of
contact lenses. Your optometrist can assist your employer and you in
determining whether you can safely wear contact lenses in your
What should be done in an eye emergency?
medical attention as soon as possible following an injury, particularly
if you have pain in the eye, blurred vision, loss of vision or loss of
field of vision. There are several simple first aid steps that can and
should be taken until medical assistance is obtained.
First aid for eye emergencies:
Chemicals in the eye
flush the eye with water for at least 15 minutes. Place the eye under a
faucet or shower, use a garden hose, or pour water into the eye from a
- If you are wearing contact lenses, do not wait
to remove the lenses. Begin flushing the eye immediately. This may wash
the lens out of the eye.
- Do not try to neutralize the chemical with other substances.
- Do not bandage the eye.
- Seek immediate medical attention after flushing.
Particles in the eye
- Do not rub the eye.
- Try to let your tears wash the speck out or irrigate the eye with an artificial tear solution.
- Try lifting the upper eyelid outward and down over the lower eyelid to remove the particle.
- If the particle does not wash out, keep the eye closed, bandage it lightly and seek medical care.
Blows to the eye
apply a cold compress without putting pressure on the eye. Crushed ice
in a plastic bag can be placed gently on the injured eye to reduce pain
- In cases of severe pain or reduced vision, seek immediate medical care.
Cuts and punctures to the eye or eyelid
- Do not wash out the eye.
- Do not attempt to remove an object that is stuck in the eye.
- Cover the eye with a rigid shield, like the bottom half of a paper cup.
- Seek immediate medical care.