by Dr. Ken Kreidl,
Ophthalmologist at Boulder Medical Center.
April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month and I wanted to relay some of the causes of eye injuries that I see at the Boulder Medical Center Ophthalmology Department. Many of the tips below are common sense, but as you know, protecting our vision is a critical part of enjoying the activities we love here in Colorado.
Snow blindness is one of the most common eye injuries that I see in in the Ophthalmology Clinic at Boulder Medical Center. UV light can be particularly intense at higher altitudes, and when it reflects off of the snow it almost doubles the amount of UV light that gets into your eye. The intensity of the UV light causes damage to the epithelial cells in the cornea, which causes the eye to be red, painful, light-sensitive, and blurry. Preventing UV exposure is the key. Be sure to wear goggles while alpine skiing, sunglasses with UV protection when hiking or cross-country skiing, and glacier goggles when mountaineering. If snow blindness occurs, treating the condition with over-the-counter lubricating drops every few hours can often improve symptoms and heal the cornea within a week. In moderate to severe cases, seeing an ophthalmologist is recommended to evaluate your eyes, and possibly prescribe steroid or antibiotic drops.
Flying objects pose a significant safety threat to your eyes. Fortunately, most people understand these risks and avoid shooting at each other with BB guns or other projectiles. The number of these injuries that I see has decreased over the years. Still, paintball guns are a significant risk to the eye, and wearing protective goggles at all times when using paintball guns is a must. Unfortunately, I have seen many serious injuries in patients that I have been hit with Nerf bullets, including one patient who bet her boyfriend that he could not hit her in the forehead with one. You can imagine what happened next, and that was not a bet she wanted to win.
Racquetball and squash are the biggest risk sports for eye injuries. Wearing protective glasses or goggles while playing these sports is mandatory. Lacrosse is also higher risk, and I have seen quite a few eye injuries with soccer players, especially those playing indoors. Unfortunately, wearing eyewear while playing soccer, due to the heading of the ball, is not practical, but being aware of the risk can help protect soccer players.
The most common eye injury I see from cycling is exposure keratitis, which is damage to the epithelial cells of the cornea from wind and/or UV light. People with a propensity for dry eyes are at higher risk for this, so putting a lubricating drop in your eyes before and possibly during your ride can be helpful. Injury to the eyes from flying debris, insects, or branches when mountain biking is also common. Wearing sunglasses during cycling is critical to prevent all of these injuries
With all of these injuries, seeking medical care from an ophthalmologist is recommend if you have decreased vision, pain, redness, eye irritation, flashing lights, floaters, or other significant visual symptoms.
Boulder Medical Center Ophthalmology Department
Ophthalmology involves the evaluation and treatment of disorders of the eyes. Routine examinations for adults and children as well as medical and surgical management of eye diseases are the focus of this department. Click Here to learn more about the Boulder Medical Center Ophthalmology Department.