A decline in eye health can tremendously impact the quality of life for those of all ages, especially older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 12 million adults in America aged 40 years and older experience some degree of vision impairment. While having hindered eyesight is a reason for concern and most definitely needs to be monitored to prevent further complications, safeguarding your eyes from injuries is also a vital concern as you age. You should always do what you can to reduce your risk of an eye injury.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has designated the month of October for raising awareness about eye injuries. They can happen to anyone, but unfortunately, seniors are at a higher risk for experiencing an eye injury. You may tend to associate eye threats with workplace accidents. But you’d be surprised to find out that many eye injuries often occur right at home. And probably not for the reason you would think.
Eye Injuries at Home
People associate a lot of injuries with falls, but one that may surprise you is eye trauma. Falling is the number one cause of eye injury in the United States. A study found that falls accounted for more than 8,400 hospitalizations in a 10-year period, with most happening to those 60 and older.
More than 40 percent of eye injuries happen during home activities, including everything from cooking and cleaning to yard work and home repairs. In addition, one-third of eye injuries happen in living spaces, including the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and family room.
There are a couple of reasons these types of eye injuries tend to affect the older population: cognitive decline and vision impairment. Cognitive decline can lead to confusion and balance issues which result in a fall. Whereas vision impairment often causes poor depth perception or problems with glare. This results in misjudging distances and heights, such as when you’re taking a corner or taking a step, causing you to run into something or misstep, leading to a tumble. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, having a vision problem over age 65 doubles your risk of a fall. And if a senior takes a fall, it could result in damaged eyelids, cornea tears, and bruising.
Types of Eye Injuries
Eye injuries don’t always mean the loss of an eye or even your vision. There are several ways you can damage your eyes. Some of the most common types of eye injuries and trauma include:
Also described as a scratched eye, corneal abrasions are extremely common as they can happen without you even intervening. The simplest things, such as dust or sand, can scratch your eye. If you rub your eye when a foreign body is present, it can cause abrasions or slight scratches on the surface of your eye. Corneal abrasions are very uncomfortable and cause your eyes to become red and sensitive to light. Although it might not sound like a major injury, especially since we all get dirt in our eyes from time to time, but if you do scratch your eye, those scratches make your eye susceptible to becoming infected.
Eye swelling or swollen eyelids is usually a result of blunt force or trauma around the area of the eye, which results in a black eye. The eyelids will become puffy and begin to discolor as well as the area surrounding the eye due to bruising.
Penetrating or Foreign Objects in the Eye
These types of injuries occur when the eye itself is hit and penetrated by something. For example, if you were to fall and break your glasses, a piece of the lens or even the frame could potentially go into your eye and cut it, resulting in a penetrating eye injury.
Also referred to as eye bleeding, subconjunctival hemorrhages tend to be painless. They usually heal on themselves over the course of a couple of weeks. This type of injury occurs when there is a break in the blood vessel that runs between the white part of the eye (known as the sclera) and the eye’s clear covering. Eye bleeding can develop from a minor eye injury and can extend over the entire eye, making it look worse than it actually is. Sneezing, coughing, vomiting, or bending over can even cause the blood vessel to break, resulting in bleeding.
When To Seek Medical Attention
You should treat all eye injuries as potential emergencies and contact your provider immediately to prevent further damage. For extreme cases, it may be better to get to a hospital for immediate assistance and care. Never take risks with your eyesight. If you’re at risk of eye injury because of falling, take preventative steps, such as installing hand grips or rails inside your home, removing potential tripping hazards like rugs, and ensuring you have proper lighting in all rooms. Always prioritize your eye health and do all you can to protect your eyes from injuries.