Worst Ways to Put Out Your Eyes

Of course, some sports just don't lend themselves to heavy-duty protective gear -- a fact that Gardiner acknowledges. "I don't expect people to go to the golf course with helmets on," he says.

Nonetheless, even shatterproof sunglasses can protect the eyes during sports.

Yard Work or Yard Power Tools

"Some of our worst injuries that we see are with lawn mowers and weed eaters," says Dr. James Banta, medical director of emergency ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami.

Both tools send debris flying at high velocities, and can easily end up in the eye.

"It's absolutely vitally important that if you're doing these things, the appropriate eye protection is worn," Banta says.

This goes for people standing nearby as well. "It's not necessarily the man who's pushing the lawn mower that gets hit," says Dr. Dean Eliott, professor and director of the Doheny Retina Institute in Los Angeles. "Sometimes it's the child who is playing on the patio."

Therefore, Iwach advises, people should be aware that there are two ways to be at risk of eye injury: "One is doing something, and the other is being near it."

Power Tools and Home Repair

These types of injuries have become more common recently, says Dr. John Aljian, chief of eye trauma at The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary.

"Now that we're into this home-improvement craze ... people try to do stuff on their own," he says.

Like yard tools, fast-moving saws or high-velocity drills can send particles flying -- straight into the eye. These particles can remain on the surface of the eye, or even penetrate the front of the eye and end up inside the eyeball, Eliott says.

Objects that enter the eye cause the most serious injuries. "Not only because of the traumatic damage that the particle does but because the particle can be contaminated with bacteria and cause an infection in the eye," he says.

Avoiding such trauma is easy. "Anytime anyone picks up a tool at home, they have to put on safety glasses, no matter how simple the task might be," Aljian says.


While most Americans in the AAO survey believed fireworks were the third-leading cause of eye injuries, they actually rank at the bottom -- even below makeup and toy-related injuries.

Still, about 1,400 people do sustain eye injuries from fireworks every year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In January 2004, 8-year-old Joshua Lazcano was one of them. He was in his front yard in Hollywood, Fla., watching his brothers and neighbors play with fireworks. In an instant, one of the lit fireworks accidentally landed in his eye.

"He came up to me and was screaming, 'Mom, I can't see! I'm blind!" remembers his mother, Rhonda Lazcano. Later, doctors determined that his lens has shattered. The boy eventually developed a cataract.

Banta performed surgery on Lazcano a few months later, and today the 13-year-old is able to see just fine. But Lazcano was lucky, as the incident easily could have blinded him.

"Fireworks should be observed from a safe distance and performed by professionals," Banta says.

Treatment Tips

For any eye injury that involves a cut or an object that penetrates the eye, it's essential to leave the injury alone.

"You don't touch, rub or apply pressure to the eye, period," says Banta. "Don't put any medication or ointment in it, and if something is stuck, don't remove it."

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