How to prevent eye injuries and save your sight

19 July 2022

Author: Kate Green

eye injuries prevention month

Spreading awareness of Eye Injuries Prevention Month


July is Eye Injuries Prevention Month, so when could possibly be a better time to talk about the most common eye injuries, how they can impact your vision, and what you can do to prevent them from occurring in the first place? Your sight is arguably the most important of all your senses, and over 80% of all impressions you make on a daily basis are made from visual information. There are lots of things can we can do prevent our eyes from injuries, for example not looking directly at the sun, wearing protective glasses when using tools, and washing our hands before touching our eyes.


How many people have eye injuries?


Around 2.5 million people suffer with eye injuries each year. Household cleaning products account for over 125,000 of these cases, while 40,000 eye injuries are caused by sports. Workplace eye injuries are very common with over 2,000 people a day injuring their eyes at work. Of all the workplace eye injuries, up to 20% will cause some form of vision loss, whether that’s temporary or permanent. Further to this, 10% of workplace eye injuries result in at least one missed day of work in order to recover.


Common causes of eye injuries in the workplace are working with heavy machinery, power tools and chemical substances. It goes without saying that your risk of experiencing an eye injury is much higher in some workplaces than others. For example, a job in a workshop or factory has a far greater risk of eye injuries than a desk job.


How do eye injuries occur?


Eye injuries can occur in a number of ways, but some of the most common causes are:


Chemical splashes – Liquids entering your eye, for example; bleach, cleaning products, hair dye etc. If this occurs, it’s important to rinse your eye for at least 15 minutes with clean water to flush out as much of the product as possible.


Bodily fluids – Certain professions such as medical workers and police officers can come into contact with fluids like blood or saliva, which can transmit diseases. In these cases, preventative medications can be administered to ensure disease doesn’t develop, so it’s important to seek medical advice as quickly as possible.


Foreign objects in eye – Foreign objects can be anything from dust or grit to an eyelash. If the object is left in your eye for long enough, it can cause discomfort and even scratch your cornea. These can sometimes be removed by flushing your eye out with water, but more severe cases may involve a visit to your eye doctor.


Scratches – A scratch to the eye can occur very easily, whether it’s from a fingernail or something brushing past your eye outside. Much like foreign bodies in the eye, scratches to the eye can damage your cornea, which causes pain and can affect your vision.


Penetration from sharp objects – Sharp objects such as glass or metal can pierce your eye if they come into contact with it at high speeds. This can occur when you are working with tools or hammering objects, and you must seek immediate medical help in order to save your vision.


Some ophthalmic experts estimate that 90% of all workplace eye injuries can be avoided by utilising proper safety glasses and eyewear to protect your eyes. Only 35% of people reported that they wear protective eyewear when doing DIY at home, which is when a huge number of eye injuries occur. In fact, gardening, home repairs, cooking and cleaning cause over 40% of annual eye injuries.


Symptoms of an eye injury


Although many symptoms of an eye injury are obvious, there are some symptoms which may worsen over time, having started out as relatively mild initially. If you recently have sustained an eye injury, you need to be particularly aware of the following symptoms that might develop:

  • Severe eye pain
  • Torn eyelid
  • Foreign body sensation in eye
  • Pupils either significantly larger or smaller than usual
  • Blurry or cloudy vision
  • Swelling around the eye
  • Headaches


When should you seek medical advice for an eye injury?


If you experience any of the above symptoms after experiencing an eye injury – no matter how minor it may seem at first – you should seek medical advice. The NHS recommends visiting A&E or calling 999 after an eye injury if:

  • A sharp object has pierced your eye
  • You feel sick or do actually vomit
  • Your eye is bleeding
  • Your vision has changed
  • Strong chemicals like bleach entered your eye
  • You have developed light sensitivity


If you have a more minor eye injury and it hasn’t improved at all in 24 hours, then call 111 or book an urgent GP appointment.


Ensure that you’re practicing good eye hygiene including washing your eye with clean water if it feels like there’s something in there, don’t touch your eyes unless you have washed your hands, and throw away any eye makeup that you’ve used while you’ve had an eye infection. On top of this, wear safety eyewear in situations where objects or materials might be entering your eyes, and also consider protective eyewear in sports like squash where your eyes might be at risk of being damaged if hit with a ball or racket.

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