Optometrists urge lockdown DIY caution


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

An estimated 200,000 eye injuries are caused by DIY mishaps every year and Specsavers opticians throughout the UK have treated patients for an array of incidents in the last few weeks – 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 it’s no surprise to see a number of patients contacting us with these types of injuries. Indeed some stores have reported treating up to three DIY-eye injuries in a single day.

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

While Specsavers stores, in line with government guidelines, have suspended routine testing for the foreseeable future, emergency and essential eye care is still available to those in need – including frontline staff and key workers. Anyone requiring emergency advice should call their local optician.

Below Mr Edmonds provides advice on DIY danger areas and advice on the action you should take if you do have an eye injury – but stresses prevention is better than cure and says suitable eye protection is the real solution.

DIY eye hazards

Trimming the hedge: ‘Twigs in the eye is incredibly common – sometimes people may fail to notice the tip of a branch as they lean over to prune a hedge or push piles of twigs into the bin. This can cause anything from small scratches to ripping off layers of the cornea which can be extremely painful.’

Mowing and strimming: ‘Watch out for objects hidden in your lawn that could be caught up and spat out by your lawnmower or strimmer, like rogue clothes pegs for example.’

Handling irritants: ‘It’s so important to avoid touching or rubbing your eye as there are chemicals which can burn the eye and even plants that can cause severe allergic reactions. We have treated reactions that have caused significant swelling or have caused tiny blood vessels to leak and cause extreme redness.’

Power tools and pressure washers: ‘Take extra care using power tools and pressure washers that can cause foreign objects to fly into the eye at speed. We once treated a man who had used electric shearers on a hedge concealing a wire fence – he thought it was a piece of bark that was causing his eye pain but when we examined him we realised it was actually a small piece of metal which had lodged itself right inside his eye.’

Paint, solvents and chemicals:
‘Paint can contain chemicals that are severe irritants while substances with a high alcohol content – even alcohol-based hand gel for example – can be a real danger as it can remove the epithelium…the layer of tissue that covers the cornea.’ Strong alkalis such as caustic soda and wet plaster and cement are also very harmful to the eyes.

Joinery: ‘This can be a key culprit of foreign objects in the eye. Don’t risk hammering without safety goggles on as it’s so easy for a nail or flint to spark back up into the eye’.

DIY SOS: what to do:

Foreign object in the eye: ‘The more you blink the more damage you can potentially cause. Imagine it as 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 bruise 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 the hospital for treatment.’

Additional services are available to help people while our stores are open for urgent and essential appointments only.  These include RemoteCare, a free nationwide sight and hearing consultation service offering expert advice and care from optometrists and audiologists, via video and telephone link. We have also launched ‘Ask the Expert’ on Facebook, for people to ask our expert team questions they might have about their sight or hearing.    For customers who have an existing prescription, online frame purchases and our easy care contact lens postal package can also be accessed through specsavers.co.uk.

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