In the past we have discussed the importance of routine eye exams in preventing ocular disease that can result in the loss of sight. Another cause for vision loss which is often preventable is through unexpected ocular trauma, often seen with athletes. Interestingly the sport most often associated with trauma is basketball which can get quite physical under the boards. Abrasions to the face and eyes are relatively common, although more serious retinal tears and detachments can also occur. Injury can be totally avoided with the use of goggles, although they are seldom used unless the athlete has had a previous injury. Soccer, a popular sport on Long Island, is also associated with ocular injuries, although in this case since there is less use with the hands most injuries occur due to direct kicks to the eye or orbit resulting in corneal abrasions, orbital fractures, and sometimes damage to the retina. Baseball and hockey players have received injuries from a fast moving baseball or hockey puck, and even spectators can be injured the same way. While sitting near the baseline, a patient of ours sustained a direct blow to her eye from a fast moving foul ball, necessitating a traumatic cataract removal.
Physical trauma is not the only way to injure your eyes as many a skier has found out. When skiing, especially at high elevation such as in the Rockies, it is imperative to wear UV protecting sunglasses. Without these, temporary sun blindness called solar keratitis can occur. This can be very painful but luckily symptoms usually subside within 24-48 hours. Chronic ultraviolet light exposure is associated with cataracts, macula degeneration and growths on the eye known as pterygia. Swimmers should avoid the use of contact lens wear since similar to sleeping with your lenses there is a high infection rate associated with this activity. Finally, with summer on its way and the 4th of July quickly approaching, be cautious of firework injuries that not only cause facial and hand injuries, but can also harm your eyes.