Emory Eye Center physicians will join eye centers around the country in May to celebrate Healthy Vision Month.
Devoted to promoting vision objectives of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Healthy People 2010 initiative, this year's Healthy Vision Month urges the use of personal protective eyewear in recreational activities and hazardous situations around the home.
The National Eye Institute (NEI), a part of the NIH, urges parents and coaches to encourage their young athletes to put on protective eyewear along with their team uniforms and gear.
Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children in the United States, and many of those injuries are sports-related. The NEI states that 90 percent of those injuries could be prevented with the use of correct protective eyewear. An estimated 27 percent of all eye injuries in children ages 11 to 14 are sports-related, says the NEI. And children under age 15 account for 43 percent of sports and recreational eye injuries overall.
"Unfortunately we treat many children with eye injuries that are sports related," says Amy Hutchinson, MD, pediatric ophthalmologist at Emory Eye Center. "Although many of these injuries respond well to treatment, severe and permanent visual loss can result. It is always so distressing for the child and his or her parents who realize that permanent loss of vision could have been prevented if appropriate eye protection had been worn."
Some sports carry a much greater risk for eye injury than others. Baseball is the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries in children 14 years and younger. Among other "high risk" sports are basketball, boxing, hockey, paintball, racquetball, fencing, softball and squash.
Protective eyewear today comes in a variety of styles and colors. Children playing sports often wear some safety gear, but forget the eyes. The NEI urges both coaches and parents to see that children wear proper protection for their eyes. Today's safety eyewear can often be matched to team colors.
Safety eyewear includes safety glasses and goggles, safety shields, and eye guards specifically designed to provide the correct protection for a certain activity. Most protective eyewear lenses are made of polycarbonate, 10 times stronger than other plastics. Many sporting goods stores carry them, and safety goggles can be worn over prescription glasses at a minimal cost.
"Eye protection is important for all children who engage in high risk sports activities, but is absolutely essential for children who are monocular," says Hutchinson. "These children are at higher risk of trauma to the seeing eye than individuals with two seeing eyes. Loss of vision in the seeing eye could markedly affect their ability to function independently throughout life."
About Emory Eye Center
The Department of Ophthalmology and Emory Eye Center have a mission to conduct pioneering research into blinding eye diseases, to educate and train eye professionals, and to provide excellent patient care. The Department includes 23 ophthalmologists, seven optometrists, nine basic scientists, 11 post-doctoral fellows, and nine researchers in other Emory departments who hold joint appointments in the Department of Ophthalmology. Ophthalmology research is supported by $6 million in NIH funding. The Department has remained in the top rankings by U.S. News & World Report for the 11 years the magazine has held a ranking for Ophthalmology. For more information visit http://eyecenter.emory.edu.