March 24, 2004 at 8:14 PM CST - Updated June 26 at 9:50 PM
To mark March as Workplace Eye Safety Month, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Eye M.D.s across the nation want to alert Americans to the possibility of eye injuries in the workplace.
Despite existing safety legislation and educational programs, each working day in the United States, more than 2,000 employees sustain job-related eye injuries, making workplace injury a leading cause of ocular trauma, visual loss and blindness. Of these, 10 to 20 percent will be disabling because of temporary or permanent vision loss.
Ninety percent of these injuries can be prevented with appropriate protective eyewear. Many of those injured workers reported that they didn't think they needed to wear eye protection or were wearing eyewear inappropriate for the job. Safety eyewear must have "ANSI Z87.1" (which means it is impact resistant) marked on the frame or lens.
Dr. Richard J. Ruckman of The Center For Sight, Lufkin, and the Academy agree that wearing proper eye protection is a matter of vital importance to worker health and safety because some industries such as construction and automotive repair can be hazardous to your vision.
As more people use computers in the workplace, complaints of eye fatigue, difficulty focusing and discomfort have also become common. We've moved into the computer age, but our offices haven't. Lighting, furniture and desk configurations that worked fine for typewriters, add to fatigue and discomfort when working with computers.
"Computer screens don't damage vision, but you might still experience eye strain. Fortunately, rearranging your computer workstation, taking more frequent rest breaks or getting proper glasses or contact lenses can often relieve these symptoms," states Dr. Ruckman.
"In addition, heating and air conditioning systems of office buildings can increase problems with dry eyes during the winter," states Dr. Ruckman. Dry eye occurs when the eye doesn't produce enough tears to keep the eye comfortable. Usual symptoms include stinging or burning eyes, scratchiness, a feeling that there's something in the eye, excessive tearing or difficulty wearing contact lenses. Over-the-counter eye drops usually do the trick, but if the problems persist, see your Eye M.D. or eye care professional for an evaluation.
To learn about protective eyewear for your occupation and/or to pinpoint the cause of your eye related discomfort, see your Eye M.D. or eye care professional.