Accidents involving the eyes can have potentially sight-threatening consequences. There are a few simple things that can be done to lessen the risk of activities that may lead to eye damage or accidents.

At work

Where you work and the type of work you do will make a difference to what steps you can take to keep your eyes healthy and safe.

Office work and computer use

You can't harm your eyes by using a computer. Computers don't cause permanent changes to your eyes, or make any eye conditions you may have worse, however the following points will help keep your eyes comfortable while using any type of screen.

  • Take frequent breaks from your screen. Your eyes can become tired when you use them for long periods. Taking frequent breaks from the screen can help to avoid tired eyes and headaches.
  • Good lighting is important for your vision. Make sure the general lighting in your room is adequate for what you are doing but try to avoid any glare on the screen itself as this can be uncomfortable.

If you need to wear glasses, then wear them when using the computer. Some people may need a different pair of glasses for using a computer than for closer reading or seeing things in the distance. You should ask your optometrist if you feel that your reading glasses aren't helping you read your computer screen.

If you do seem to suffer from headaches when using the computer for long periods even with breaks, then you may need to have a pair of glasses especially for computer work - your optometrist can assess this.

Industrial or chemical work

If you work in a factory, garage, laboratory or other industrial place then your eyes may be at risk from the work you do. This is particularly the case if you work with machinery that does any kind of pressing or grinding, if you work with chemicals or in a place with lots of dust or particles in the air. 

These points may help keep your eyes safe:

  • Wear the correct eye protection - your employer should provide the correct protection for you and for each job you may have to perform.
  • Welding should always be undertaken using a welding mask. The bright light of a welding torch can cause permanent damage to the cornea and the retina.
  • All chemicals should be handled with care following manufacturers' or site-specific instructions.
  • People that are watching you work in industrial environments should also wear eye protection as if they are doing the task.

Leisure time

You need to keep your eyes safe while you are having fun. There are some leisure activities which have an increased risk for your eyes. Some simple steps will keep your eyes safe and not get in the way of your fun.

Do it yourself

Lots of people enjoy DIY, but unfortunately accidents can happen. A lot can be done to keep your eyes as safe as possible while you put those shelves up!

  • Wear appropriate eye protection. Use goggles when you are sawing, sanding, drilling, hammering or any activity that causes dust or air particles. It is easy for large particles to enter your eye and cause serious damage. Fine particles of dust and debris can also cause problems. Safety goggles, which can be bought from most DIY shops, can help you prevent these accidents entirely.
  • Keep your tools in good condition and make sure that you use the right tool for the job, as improvising can lead to serious accidents. Also make sure there is enough light to see what you are doing and wearing any glasses you may normally use to see things clearly.
  • Read manufacturers' instructions carefully, especially when using any kind of chemicals. Some chemicals should only be used while wearing eye protection to avoid chemical splash injuries that can have serious consequences for sight.
  • Make sure aerosols are pointing away from your face when they are used.
  • Don't over stretch yourself. Many accidents occur when people attempt jobs that are too difficult for them. Gas and electrical work should always be carried out by qualified individuals.

Gardening

There are a number of simple safety precautions in the garden that can help you prevent eye injuries.

  • Always inspect your lawn for debris before you start to mow as flying stones or wood can cause eye damage.
  • Be aware of low branches and take care when pruning. Protecting your eyes with safety goggles greatly reduces the risk of accidents.
  • Any canes you use in your garden should be easy to see. Marking the top of the cane with something brightly coloured can avoid nasty accidents.
  • If you use chemicals in your garden, read manufacturers' guidelines carefully. Most chemicals should be kept away from the eyes and often it is sensible to wear safety goggles when using them, especially over large areas.

Sport

The following are ideas which may help protect your eyes when playing sport.

  • If you play a racquet sport, like tennis or squash then you need to be careful and the best idea may be to use eye protection while playing. This is especially important when playing squash because of the size of the ball and the speed at which it travels could cause serious damage if it hits your eye. England Squash, the sport's governing body, has guidelines and rules for the use of eye protectors in their sport. There is also a British standard for eye protection suitable for squash BS7930:1.
  • Contact sport such as rugby, martial arts or boxing may have some potential for causing eye damage, and proper training and supervision can be important to make sure your eyes are safe. If you have had any eye problems in the past, particularly surgery, then you should ask your ophthalmologist whether it is advisable to take part in contact sports.
  • If you wear glasses to improve your vision it is best to wear them when you are playing any sport both for your ability and for safety. Ask your optometrist if you feel you need a different way of correcting your vision while playing your sport. You may usually wear glasses everyday but for sport you may want to try contact lenses.

As well as keeping your eyes safe having a regular eye examination, stopping smoking, eating healthily and protecting your eyes from the sun can all make a positive difference to your eye health.

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