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Household eye injuries focus of awareness campaign

A month-long national eye health awareness campaign to prevent household eye injuries is rolling out from today as part of an annual program held each July.

JulEye, hosted by Australian and New Zealand Eye Foundation (ANZEF) – a RANZCO-led charity – is aiming to raise public awareness about simple prevention measures for common household eye injuries.

The timely campaign comes as ANZEF notes that household eye injuries are on the rise, with home-based activities gaining in popularity during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

According to RANZCO, 30% of all eye injuries occur at home. Most preventable eye injuries happen during DIY projects, car repairs or gardening and are caused by chemical burns, penetrating eye injuries and small particles.

RANZCO president Associate Professor Heather Mack said nearly all of these eye injuries can be prevented by taking the simple precaution of wearing suitable eye protection.

“It is vital for all Australians and New Zealanders to ensure they are wearing eye protection, such as safety glasses, goggles or face shields, to prevent common eye injuries,” she said.

“Ophthalmologists commonly treat chemical burns and foreign body injuries that could have been prevented. Unfortunately, some of these injuries do result in a patient having permanent eye damage and vision loss so we urge everyone to take eye safety seriously and wear eye protection when completing any jobs around the home.”

The rise in household eye injuries is not limited to Australia, with international research showing similar patterns.

A letter to the editor on changing trends of ocular trauma in the time of COVID-19 pandemic, published in May in The Royal College of Ophthalmologists journal Eye and based on emergency department data from a hospital in Italy, found the percentage of eye injuries from falls and sports injuries had the highest decrease, while injuries during home activities and with plants had the highest increase.

The Italian study also showed that some patients may intentionally avoid urgent care.

ANZEF is also seeking through the JulEye campaign to raise public awareness of ophthalmology – largely in the context of the role of the ophthalmologist when injuries occur.

ANZEF recommends wearing eye protection where the frame and lenses meet minimum lens dimension requirements of AS/NZS 1337.1. These can be purchased from workwear specialists, DIY stores, tool and tool hire shops.

In addition to raising community awareness of eye health issues, JulEye aims to raise funding for research projects into the causes and cures of vision impairment and blindness. It also aims to support international development projects whose goals are aligned with those of ANZEF.