Workplace eye injuries are extremely common. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that each day, 2,000 U.S. workers sustain eye injuries on the job. That’s roughly 43 eye injuries every second!
Certain occupations are at particularly high risk for eye injuries. Generally these are jobs that involve chemicals, UV or excessively bright lights, or the use of machinery or equipment that cuts, drills, pounds, sprays, welds or generates a lot of dust and debris. Some of the most dangerous jobs in terms of eyes include:
• Auto mechanics.
• Factory workers.
• Laboratory researchers and technicians.
Safety experts and eye doctors—including Dr. Ashraf—believe using proper eye protection can lessen the severity or even prevent 90 percent of these eye injuries. The fact is, with almost every on-the-job eye injury, the injury occurred either because the employee was not wearing eye protection, or the right kind of protection for the particular job.
Here at the Atlanta Vision Institute, we believe it is always important to review current safety guidelines and to implement wellness and safety protocol for eye health. If your work involves machinery, equipment or tools, make sure you’re provided with the right forms of eye protection. Make sure goggles or safety glasses are clean and not scratched, which can cloud your vision. Use anti-dust or anti-fog sprays to prevent buildup, and replace damaged lenses or shields. Be sure eyewash stations are stocked and properly functioning, as well, and ensure the entire staff is properly trained on how to use these stations.
Workplace eye safety…not just a concern with industrial jobs!
The fact is, it’s not only the industrial workplace that can damage a person’s eyes. Office workers, too, can harm their eyes while at work. This is especially true for individuals who spend the majority of their workdays in front of a computer screen.
Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is the catchall term for eye problems caused by extended periods of time in front of a computer screen. CVS affects between 60 and 90 percent of office workers. Additionally, children and teens who frequently use smart phones, tablets, e-readers or computers, or play video games for extended periods of time are also susceptible to CVS.
Computer-related eye problems are more likely to occur in people who already have an uncorrected vision problem such as presbyopia, farsightedness or astigmatism. These symptoms can be a result of poor lighting, being too close to the screen for too long of a period of time without a break, poor posture, and excessive screen glare. Although CVS isn’t likely to cause long-term, irreparable damage to the eyes, it can lead to periods of blurry or double vision, dry eyes, red eyes and eye pain, as well as headaches, neck aches and shoulder pain. The greater the length of time someone uses the computer, the higher the level of discomfort he or she will likely experience.
To reduce the impacts of computer vision syndrome, Dr. Ashraf suggests you take a 20-second break from working on the computer every 20 minutes. During your computer break, try to focus on something at least 20 feet away. This gives the eyes a chance to rest, and allows them to focus on far objects, preventing fatigue.
Dr. Ashraf also advises people who work on the computer for extended periods take time to make sure that they are blinking adequately. Blinking ensures that your eyes stay lubricated, in effect washing your eyes with therapeutic tears, and is also the eye’s way of resting for a brief moment.
Other steps to combating CVS include:
Use proper lighting. Avoid excessively bright light and balance your ambient light using fewer or lower-intensity bulbs. If possible, avoid working under fluorescent lights.
Modify your computer monitor and workstation. Minimize glare and upgrade your computer monitor to an LCD screen which is easier on the eyes. Keep your monitor at least 20 inches from your eyes, and move the screen so you are looking slightly down at it, about 24 inches from your face. Adjust your screen display settings to where they are comfortable, including resolution, flicker, font size, brightness, etc.
While in front of the computer, don’t be too intense with your gaze. Visually take stock of the room around you to keep your eyes in constant motion. This allows your eyes to focus on things at various depths. You can also focus on something else in the room for a few moments. Simple eye exercises, like rolling your eyes around in circular motions, are also beneficial. This lubricates your eyes and eases muscle strain.
Consider getting computer eyewear. Come in for an eye examination, and Dr. Ashraf can prescribe a pair of eyeglasses for you to wear specially for while you are viewing the computer screen, to help reduce eye strain.
These safety precautions and easy exercises will keep your eyes healthy and your workday productive.
Your eyes reveal a lot about your overall health
You may have heard that your eyes are the window to your soul, but they can also reveal a great deal about your overall health and the potential to develop serious health conditions later in life. In fact, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute recently discovered that some abnormalities in the eye may uncover early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia (the decline in cognitive abilities, including memory and thinking skills), affecting more than 44 million people worldwide. This is a progressive disease that can ultimately prevent sufferers from performing daily tasks. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, treatments are available to slow the progression of the disease and improve day-to-day life.
The Cedars-Sinai study allowed researchers to see how changes in the eye can reflect a decrease in brain function. Using high-resolution imaging techniques, animal models and donated human retinas from patients who suffered from Alzheimer’s, researchers were able to study changes in the eye and visual acuity and understand how those changes indicate the presence and development of the disease.
The researchers monitored tissue degeneration and the decline in visual function. Both of these indicators are strongly associated with developing Alzheimer’s. Their findings could eventually help doctors identify early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and provide treatment before the disease has progressed very far.
“Greater magnitude in these eye abnormalities may mean a greater chance of a patient having Alzheimer’s disease. These findings may be used to study Alzheimer’s disease mechanisms and test potential drugs,” stated Alexander Ljubimov, PhD, the study’s co-author. Dr. Ljubimov is director of the Eye Program at the Regenerative Medicine Institute and professor of biomedical sciences and neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.
While more studies are needed to confirm this initial research, it is fascinating to understand how much the eyes can reveal about disease development and the potential for patients to develop debilitating diseases in the future. The full study may be accessed online here.