How to prevent eye injuries
Experts say more than 90% of eye injuries can be prevented by wearing safety glasses and taking other important precautions.
Eye injuries don’t just happen in “high-risk professions.” If you use a lawn mower, leaf-blower, drill or similar power tools, you need protective eyewear.
Safety glasses should have a snug, wrap-style frame. This decreases the likelihood of small, airborne particles getting behind the lenses. If you wear corrective lenses, hardware stores sell inexpensive goggles that will usually fit over your glasses.
Workplace eye safety programs
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides workplace guidelines. Certain professions are required to follow protective eyewear and emergency eye care recommendations.
The following video explains how to prevent eye injuries at home, at work and while playing sports:
If you or your employer is unsure of which guidelines apply to your workplace, visit the OSHA website for information on these topics:
Eye and face protection
General industry standards
State plan publications and training materials
Employers may be required to provide prescription safety glasses to employees who need corrective eyewear. They may also provide a shield that will cover and protect the employee's own eyeglasses. It's possible that some types of work will require safety shields, safety glasses, or both.
Be sure that you understand the risks for eye injuries at your workplace. Find the most appropriate type of safety eyewear for your job, and use them. Employers also should consult with an eye doctor who is familiar with safety eyewear programs. They can give additional insight beyond the information available from OSHA.
SEE RELATED: Eye Safety Basics
An estimated 15,600 fireworks-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2020, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 66% of those injuries happened between June 21 and July 21, 2020 — around the July 4th holiday.
Firecrackers were responsible for 1,600 emergency-department treated injuries. Sparklers caused around 900 injuries.
The CPSC's "2020 Fireworks Annual Report" also included these findings for the one-month period bracketing Independence Day:
Males sustained 71% of fireworks-related injuries; females accounted for 29%.
The highest rate of injuries (35%) occurred in individuals between 25 and 44 years of age.
The second-highest rate of injuries (25%) occurred among teenagers and young adults, aged 15 to 24.
Here is a breakdown of the body parts affected by fireworks-related injuries treated in the emergency departments:
Hands and fingers - 30%
Legs - 13%
Eyes - 15%
Head, face and ears - 22%
Arms - 12%
Other - 7%
The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers these safety tips for preventing eye injuries from fireworks:
Never let children play with fireworks.
View fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
Only trained professionals should light fireworks.
Don't touch any unexploded fireworks remains. Instead, notify the fire or police department.
Eye safety and air bags
There's no question that safety air bags in motor vehicles save lives. But some people have sustained significant injuries from them.
Though it's possible to sustain a corneal abrasion or other eye injury from your vehicle's air bags during an accident, you would be at risk of much more serious injuries (including eye injuries from a shattered windshield) without these safety devices when traveling at highway speeds.
To reduce your risk of injury to your eyes and head from air bags:
Make sure you are wearing your seatbelt and that it's properly adjusted.
Adjust the headrest of your seat for proper support.
Sit at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel.
Don't smoke while driving.
Have children sit in the back seat with seatbelts and safety seats properly adjusted.
Laser pointers shine a focused beam of high intensity light. They are commonly used in presentations to highlight specific points or images.
Looking directly at the light beam of a laser pointer can cause temporary vision loss and even permanent damage to the retina. This was learned after children and young adults began purchasing laser pointers and using them as toys.
Also, laser pointers began to be used as sighting devices for paintball guns. Because of the potential for eye injuries, the FDA has required laser pointers to have warning labels on packaging. The warnings must mention possible retinal damage.
SEE RELATED: Can a Flashlight Cause Eye Damage?
During a celebration, you're probably not thinking about eye damage. But a flying cork from a bottle of champagne can rupture the eyeball. This can cause bleeding inside the eye, a detached retina, dislocate the eye's lens, damage the orbital bone structure and more. Serious vision loss can result from these injuries.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, this happens more often with champagne and sparkling wine bottles that aren't chilled. This is because the bubbles contain gas that expands when warm. This causes the corks to come out much faster, at speeds of up to 50 mph. It is recommended that you chill the beverages to 45 degrees Fahrenheit or colder before you open them.
To prevent eye injury, follow these instructions provided by the Academy (or watch this how-to video):
Don't shake the bottle before opening it, because this just increases the pressure inside and therefore the speed at which the cork leaves the bottle.
Point the cork away from yourself and others while opening the bottle.
After removing the foil, hold down the cork with your palm as you remove the wire. Do not use a corkscrew for bubbly beverages!
Don't push under the cork. Instead, place a towel over it, and keep your palm on the cork as you twist the base of the bottle. Don't worry, it will still make that delightful "pop," and you and your friends will be much safer!
Eye injuries related to paintball
Without proper eye and head protection, people can receive devastating injuries from paintball guns. Some guns are capable of propelling paint pellets at speeds over 180 mph.
The most important rule for paintball is this: Never take off your head shield, which should combine eye and ear protection. Commercial paintball fields require that you keep a head shield on at all times when you're in the playing area, even when a game has not yet begun. Most documented paintball-related eye injuries have occurred when players removed their shields, even for just a few seconds.
Paintball injuries include traumatic cataracts, detached retinas, hyphema (bleeding inside the eye), glaucoma, orbital (eye socket) blowout fractures and rupturing of the eyeball. Paintball-related eye injuries can result in permanent vision loss and even blindness.
If you're still not convinced of the importance of wearing protective gear while playing paintball, consider these statistics:
In a study of paintball-related eye injuries treated at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute (Miami), 86% (31) of the patients were men, and only one had been wearing protective eyewear. Among this group of injuries, surgery was required to treat 81% of the cases.
Eight eyes (22%) were so badly damaged that they had to be surgically removed. Even after treatment, vision was 20/200 or worse (legally blind) in 18 (50%) of the injured eyes, according to the study.
The common warning that you'll "put an eye out" if you're not careful actually can be true, particularly when you are engaged in certain types of work, home and sports activities. Unlike other parts of the body that can heal after a serious injury, your unprotected eye — and your vision — may never fully recover from certain wounds.
Read more about protective sports eyewear.
Preventing eye injuries. Prevent Blindness. Accessed June 2022.
2020 Fireworks annual report. Consumer Product Safety Commission. June 2021.
Important information for laser pointer manufacturers. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. December 2017.
How to pop a champagne cork without harming your eye. American Academy of Ophthalmology. October 2021.
Paintballs can cause 'devastating' eye injuries. Science Daily. January 2009.
Page published on Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Page updated on Wednesday, June 22, 2022