The world can be a harsh place for your eyes. There are many work or recreational activities that may increase your risk of eye injury and strain, including some that may seem surprising. By being aware of the possible risks, you can protect yourself from eye damage and strain.
Certain work situations, including handling hazardous chemicals, using power tools, and being exposed to flying particles, have a high risk of eye damage. In these situations, it is important to follow your workplace safety measures, wear proper eye protection (this will vary according to the work situation), and know the location of the nearest eyewash or first aid station.
In some jobs, the risks are unexpected. If you work with computers or VDTs (video display terminals) for more than an hour each day, you are at a high risk of eyestrain. This can lead to headaches, blurred vision, and difficulty working. Try to take a break from computer use for 15 minutes during each 2-hour period, or for 10 minutes per hour during intensive work. Check your screen to make sure there is no glare (from a window or lamp) on the screen. Usually, the screen should be 10 to 20 degrees below your eye level. Your optometrist can recommend a set-up for your screen and work station that would be best for you.
The American Optometric Association also recommends that you get an eye exam at least every 2 years, more often if you are over 60 or are at higher risk for eye problems (e.g., if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or glaucoma, or work in a job that places extra demands on your eyes). Make sure to tell your optometrist if you work at a computer or VDT.
The sports and leisure activities you enjoy may put you at higher risk for eye injuries. Most sports have some risk for eye injury.Those with the highest risk are contact sports, racket sports, and sports involving a ball or puck. Before starting a new sport, find out what kind of eye protection is recommended, and always wear it. You should be able to find this information from sports-governing bodies, coaches, or sports stores. If you enjoy outdoor sports or activities, make sure your eyes are protected from ultraviolet (UV) light with a pair of sunglasses or goggles certified to block UVA and UVB light.
Contact lenses can also be a source of eye injuries or infection. Using dirty or damaged lenses can lead to eye infection, scratches on the cornea (eye surface), or other eye problems. To reduce your risk, always clean and store your lenses as recommended by your optometrist or eye doctor. Do not share lenses or solutions, and throw away your solutions when they reach their expiry date, or one month after they are first opened, whichever is sooner. Don't use your lenses for longer than recommended (i.e., if you have daily disposable lenses, don't try to make them last for a week). If you think you might have eye damage or an infection, or if anything else worries you, stop using the lenses and check with your optometrist. It is a good idea to have a pair of glasses on hand in case you need to take the lenses out.