You may think wearing goggles is enough to protect your eyes, but many injuries can happen to your eyes that goggles won't prevent.
"People can injure their eyes by not protecting them from the sun or exposing them to dirt and grit," says Reza Haque, M.D., an ophthalmology research expert in East Hanover, N.J. "Likewise, people who travel a lot can suffer eye irritation from long hours on airplanes or exposure to new groups of allergens in different cities and hotel rooms."
To protect yourself and your family from eye injuries:
Keep your eyes moist. Dry, windy weather, certain medications and conditions, and menopause can make your eyes more prone to irritation. "Keeping your eyes moist with lubricating eye drops and using sterile pads to clean around the eyes and eyelids can increase comfort and reduce irritation," says Dr. Haque.
Wear sunglasses with UV protection when outdoors. Make sure the label states that the lenses block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays. "Excessive exposure to sunlight reflected off sand, water, or pavement can burn the eye's surface," says Dr. Haque. "Also, some studies have found UV light plays a role in the development of cataracts, macular degeneration, and aging of the retina." Any factor that increases your exposure to sunlight, such as prescription drugs that increase sensitivity to UV light, can increase the risk for eye problems. People who work outdoors or engage in leisure activities outside, especially in the snow or near water, have the highest risk.
Avoid tanning beds. They can cause skin cancer and damage your eyes.
Wear chemical safety goggles when using hazardous solvents and detergents, such as cleaning fluids and ammonia. "These products are extremely hazardous and can burn your eyes," says Dr. Haque. Always read instructions and labels carefully, work in a well-ventilated area, and make sure spray nozzles are pointed away from you before using. Wear safety goggles while working and wash your hands thoroughly when you're finished.
Treating an injury
If you sustain an eye injury, see an ophthalmologist or go to the nearest hospital emergency room right away, even if the injury seems minor. Delaying medical attention could result in permanent vision loss or blindness.
"Most accidents that cause blindness could be prevented," says Dr. Haque. "Wearing protective gear, keeping your eyes moist, and seeking medical assistance if an injury occurs can preserve your sight."