Know the Score: Wearing Eye Protection Prevents Players from Getting Benched Due to Injury

Sports-related eye injuries cause an estimated 100,000 doctor visits each year. Yet, most of these injuries can be prevented by wearing eye protection. In fact, a recent study of high school field hockey players shows that traumatic eye injuries fell 67 percent after eye protection became mandatory. In support of Sports Eye Safety Month in April, the Nebraska Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and the American Academy of Ophthalmology are offering athletes of all ages guidance on how to best protect their eyes.

Common sports eye injuries include corneal abrasions, lacerations and bleeding in the eye. Basketball players tend to get poked in the eye with fingers. Tennis and softball players more often get hit with fast moving balls. In contact sports like football and martial arts, more severe ocular injuries such as retinal detachment and orbital fracture occur. One-third of sports-related eye injuries happens to kids.

The good news is that 90 percent of eye injuries can be prevented with the use of protective eyewear. Save your vision while playing sports by following these tips:

  • Wear the right eye protection: For basketball, racquet sports, soccer and field hockey, wear protection with shatterproof polycarbonate lenses.
  • Put your helmet on: For baseball, ice hockey and lacrosse, wear a helmet with a polycarbonate face mask or wire shield.
  • Know the standards: Choose eye protection that meets American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards. See the Academy’s protective eyewear web page for more details.
  • Throw out old gear: Eye protection should be replaced when damaged or yellowed with age. Wear and tear may cause them to become weak and lose effectiveness.
  • Glasses won’t cut it: Regular prescription glasses may shatter when hit by flying objects. If you wear glasses, try sports goggles on top to protect your eyes and your frames.

“Virtually all sports eye injuries could be prevented by wearing proper eye protection,” said ophthalmologist Philip R. Rizzuto, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the Academy.

That’s why I always strongly encourage athletes to protect their eyes when participating in competitive sports.

Anyone who experiences a sports eye injury should immediately visit an ophthalmologist, a physician specializing in medical and surgical eye care.

For more information on sports eye safety, see the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmart® website at www.aao.org/eye-health.

Ergonomics for the Eyes: Simple Adjustments to Help Reduce Visual Fatigue

Long touted as good for backs and necks, proper desk ergonomics are also important for the health and comfort of the eyes. In support of Workplace Eye Wellness Month in March, the Nebraska Academy of Eye Physicians & Surgeons and the American Academy of Ophthalmology is offering tips to desk workers everywhere whose eyes may need relief from too much screen time.

Many people who spend long hours reading or working on a computer for their jobs experience eye discomfort. Focusing on tiny type for hours on end can cause eye strain, fatigue and headaches. Staring at screens for long periods can also leave eyes parched, red and gritty-feeling.

I have many patients who work long hours in an office setting, and it can be irritating to the eyes, causing dryness, strain, even blurriness. Luckily, changing a few simple things in your environment and on your desk can help solve some of these problems.

Natasha Herz, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

To help avoid workplace dry eye and eye strain, follow these eye ergonomics tips from the American Academy of Ophthalmology:

  • Stay at arm’s length: The eyes actually have to work harder to see close up than far away. If you have a desktop computer, try placing the monitor 25 inches away from your face. No measuring tape? Put your screen an arm’s length away. You may need to adjust the type to appear larger at that distance.
  • Take care of glare: While many new phones and laptops have glass screens with excellent picture quality, they also produce a strong glare that can aggravate the eyes. If you use a glass screen device, try a matte filter for your screen.
  • Give your eyes a break: Just as carpal tunnel syndrome from overuse can hurt your wrists, eye strain occurs after long, continuous periods of reading paper or viewing digital screens up close. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: take a break every 20 minutes by looking at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Looking into the distance allows your eyes to relax.
  • Defy dry eye: Many newer office buildings have humidity-controlled environments that suck moisture out of the air. In winter, heaters on high can further dry your eyes. Try a desktop humidifier to add localized moisture. Keep artificial tears at hand to help lubricate your eyes.
  • Lighten up: When your screen is much brighter than your surroundings, your eyes have to work harder to see. Adjusting your environmental lighting can reduce eye strain. Also, try increasing the contrast on your monitor.

Those experiencing consistently dry red eyes or eye pain should visit an ophthalmologist, a physician specializing in medical and surgical eye care.

For more information on computers and eye strain, see the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s public information website at www.aao.org/eye-health.

Love Your Eyes: Ophthalmologists Remind Older Americans to Protect Themselves from the Leading Cause of Blindness

Seniors are at heightened risk for age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness among older Americans. The disease damages central vision, limiting a person’s ability to read and recognize faces. Approximately 2.1 million Americans had AMD as of 2010. This number is expected to double to more than 5.4 million by 2050. Meanwhile, fewer people are aware of the disease compared to other eye diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma.

To help raise awareness of AMD as Valentine’s Day approaches next month, the Nebraska Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and the American Academy of Ophthalmology are reminding seniors that their eyes need love, too. There are steps they can take to take better care of their eyes and protect themselves from AMD-related blindness.

Here are five eye-loving tips from the Academy and the facts behind the advice:

  • Get regular comprehensive medical eye exams. AMD often has no early warning signs, so getting regular comprehensive eye exams from an ophthalmologist – a physician that specializes in the medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases and conditions – is critical to diagnosing and treating AMD in its early stages. The Academy recommends that people over age 65 get an exam every one to two years, even if they have no signs or symptoms of eye problems.
  • Quit smoking. Numerous studies have shown smoking to increase risk of developing AMD and the speed at which it progresses. If you smoke, you are twice as likely to develop macular degeneration compared with a nonsmoker.
  • Know your family’s eye health history. If you have a close relative with AMD, you have a 50 percent chance of developing the condition. Before you go in for your next eye exam, speak with your family about their eye health history. Sharing this information with your ophthalmologist may prompt him or her to recommend more frequent eye exams. The earlier AMD is caught, the better chances you may have of saving your vision.
  • Eat a diet rich in omega-3s and low in cholesterol and saturated fat. A number of studies have shown that people who had a reduced risk of AMD had diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish. In one study of patients who were at moderate risk for AMD progression, those who reported the highest omega-3 intake (not in the form of a supplement) were 30 percent less likely to develop advanced AMD after 12 years. In another study, an increased risk of AMD was found in individuals who had a higher intake of saturated fats and cholesterol and in those with a higher body mass index.
  • Exercise regularly. Many studies have shown that getting regular exercise can benefit your eyes. One study found that exercising three times a week reduced the risk of developing wet AMD over 15 years by 70 percent.

There is still a worrying lack of awareness when it comes to AMD, despite it being the number one cause of blindness in seniors,” said Rahul N. Khurana, M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Older Americans who are unaware of the disease may be putting themselves at risk by not taking early steps to care for their vision. The good news is that they protect their sight from AMD-related blindness by showing their eyes some TLC with regular eye exams and lifestyle changes.

Seniors concerned about their risk of AMD may qualify for EyeCare America, a public service program of the American Academy of Ophthalmology that offers eye exams and care at no out-of-pocket cost for eligible seniors age 65 and older. Thousands of Academy members nationwide volunteer their time to serve their communities through EyeCare America. Visit www.eyecareamerica.org to see if you are eligible.