Optometrists report on lockdown DIY injuries

Optometrists are urging DIY enthusiasts to take extra care to avoid eye injuries as home improvement projects prove popular during lockdown.

An estimated 200,000 eye injuries are caused by DIY mishaps every year and opticians throughout the UK have treated patients for an array of incidents in the last two months  – from foreign objects to chemical burns.

Specsavers clinical services director, Giles Edmonds, says: ‘We often see a spike in these types of accidents in springtime, so as lockdown-DIY becomes popular its no surprise to see a number of patients contacting us with these types of injuries. Indeed some clinicians have reported treating up to three DIY-eye injuries in a single day.

In Farnham, Surrey, optometrist director Lateef Iqbal has seen lots of DIY-related eye conditions lately. He says: ‘We certainly have been busy removing many foreign objects from people’s eyes and prescribing eye drops for irritation that has been exacerbated by the pollen count with more people gardening’.

Optometrist Joanna Duncan in nearby Alton says: ‘We recently helped a customer in her 70s who had something in her eye after following a stint of gardening. She was able to come in to see us to have a foreign object removed from her cornea. We prescribed antibiotic eye drops to prevent any related infection and followed up after a few days with a phone call to check she was well. She told us that she is very grateful that we were open to help. For me, the important point is that we were able to keep one person away from our busy local A&E department which is paramount in these challenging times.’

Similarly, in Edinburgh Graeme Kay, 58, visited Specsavers Morningside store following a gardening mishap that resulted in a chemical burn to his right eye. The recent retiree was cleaning his patio when chemical fluid sprayed into his eye. His concern grew over the next 36 hours as he developed painful swelling and bleeding, and following a trip to a nearby pharmacy, Graeme was encouraged to visit his local Specsavers store for emergency help.

Michael O’Kane, clinical director in Specsavers Morningside, described the quick action that was taken to help Graeme. He says: ‘Graeme’s eye looked extremely angry and following an emergency consultation it was clear he was suffering from periorbital oedema, chemosis and a significant subconjunctival haemorrhage. We irrigated his eye and I swabbed it to remove any foreign bodies from under the lids. I then prescribed him antibiotic ointment and drops to help wash out the eye, treat, and ease friction on it so it can heal at home.

‘We were able to quickly and effectively diagnose and treat Graeme in store. Had it been a more serious injury involving the cornea, we would have referred him directly to the eye hospital. By treating emergency cases like this in high street stores, and through telephone/video consultations, we are helping to take pressure off the NHS at this extremely challenging time. I encourage people to contact their optometrist first for any eye condition rather than their GP or A&E.’

Giles Edmonds’ advice to consumers is: ‘It is important to be cautious and pay close attention when carrying out any activity which might lead to something going into the eye, such as pruning in the garden, drilling or grinding and that suitable eye protection is worn. In the event that an injury occurs, call your local opticians store where an optometrist will be able to discuss the best course of action with you.’

Below Mr Edmonds provides advice on DIY danger areas and advice on the immediate action for eye injuries – but stresses prevention is better than cure and says suitable eye protection is the real solution.

  • Foreign object in eye: ‘The more you blink the more damage you can potentially cause. Imagine it like a leaf stuck on your windscreen wipers…it will keep scraping and scratching. Try to flush it out, and if need be use your eyelashes to lift the eyelid off the surface of your eye while you do so. See your optician who can swab to remove the foreign body and apply an antibiotic ointment to help prevent infection and lubricate the eye with a gel or ointment for up to three months to prevent a recurrence of the scratch.’

  • Chemicals or solvents in the eye: Irrigate, irrigate, irrigate!  It’s essential to flush out the eye immediately with water.  Tilt your head so the water runs across your eye towards your ear… you don’t want it running in the other direction where it could potentially transfer chemicals into your other eye. Alkali substances are so dangerous that time really is of the essence – so use any water source you have to hand and flush out for a good 20-30 minutes as well as seeking urgent medical assistance.

  • Cuts: If you get a cut on the outside of your eye, on your eyelid for example, clean it out and treat it like you would with any other scratch – keeping it clean and dry and applying antiseptic ointment if need be – and attend A&E if you think stitches are required.  If, however, the cut or scratch is on the eyeball itself and is causing pain or visual disturbance you should definitely seek help from an optician.

  • Black eye: Many black eyes will heal by themselves within a few weeks but if you do experience problems with your vision, issues focussing up close, pain in reaction to light or distortion of lines, speak to your optician. In extreme circumstances a significant bump could cause iritis, retinal detachment or bruising of the layer beneath the retina.

  • Perforated eyeball: ‘While some eye injuries may cause an eye to water, a perforated eyeball is much more serious and can release fluid from inside the eyeball, reducing the pressure in the eye and may cause severe infection which can travel to the brain. If the eyeball is perforated your vision will usually be severely reduced (only able to see movement, or possibly nothing at all). This is a medical emergency and we’d recommend going straight to hospital.

You might also like...

Optometry case studies

Share, Print or Favourite