Childhood eye injuries
Trauma is a significant cause of visual loss in children in Jamaica. Prevention of eye injuries can go a long way to reducing the incidence of visual impairment. The most common causes of childhood eye injuries may be classified as follows:
Blunt trauma is due to a direct blow to the eye by a blunt object. Common causes of blunt trauma to the eye are cricket, tennis, and squash ball injuries; fist or elbow injuries; stones and other missiles; and belt buckle and bungee cord injuries. ALL cases of blunt trauma should be seen by an ophthalmologist, who can examine the eye and identify any serious damage.
A penetrating eye injury is usually caused by a sharp object (e.g., sticks or twigs, nails or screws, pencils, pens, ice picks, compasses, fish hooks, scissors, knives, metal coat hangers). These injuries are often very serious. Even when these injuries heal, they almost always do so with a scar, which can reduce vision considerably.
Chemical eye injury
Chemical eye injuries are common and easily prevented. These can cause burns and scarring, resulting in blindness if severe. Common agents that cause chemical eye injuries include bleach, cleaning agents, and acid. In chemical eye injuries, first aid is most important and can affect the final outcome. The most important part of treatment is to flush out the chemical with as much clean water as possible, usually for a period of 15 minutes, even before seeking medical attention.
Prevention of childhood eye injuries
• Keep all sharp objects out of the reach of children.
• Keep all chemicals out of the reach of children.
• Check all toys for sharp or pointed parts.
• Take precautions when using pointed implements, e.g., scissors, knives, ice picks, hangers.
• Avoid games with missiles, e.g., bows and arrows, darts.
• Insist on eye protection, e.g., goggles, protective glasses in ball and contact sports.
• Teach children never to throw stones and especially not at other people.
• Avoid fireworks.
• Ensure that children are in age-appropriate car seats, boosters, or seat belts when travelling in motor vehicles.
• Never hit a child with a belt. Many children have lost vision permanently because they were hit with a belt and accidentally caught in the eye.
In the event that there has been an eye injury:
• Do not rub or put pressure on the eye.
• Do not try to remove an object that is stuck in or protruding from the eye.
• Do not apply ointment or medication to the eye.
• Gently cover any cut or puncture wound with clean gauze.
• If there is a chemical injury, flush the eye with clean water.
• Seek medical help as soon as possible.
Dr Lisa Leo Rhynie MBBS, FRCOphth