Eye injuries happen every day, and some sports can increase your risk of ocular trauma without proper eye protection. September is Sports Eye Safety Awareness Month, and our board-certified ophthalmologist wants you to know that the consequences of an eye injury don’t go away when the tissues heal. Eye trauma can increase the risk of retinal conditions, such as retinal tears, retinal detachment, , macular pucker and macular degeneration among others.
How Eye Injuries Affect the Retina
The retina is a layer of tissue that lines the back inner area of the eyeball. The cornea and natural eye lens focus light rays onto the retina, which then sends messages to the brain through the optic nerve. The brain translates that visual information into clear pictures. Eye injuries increase the risk of most retinal diseases because they may alter the eye structures and damage internal tissues. Even seemingly minor eye injuries can cause permanent damage, increasing the risk of future eye diseases.
Retinal conditions cause visual impairment, disturbances, or in severe cases, blindness. While there are many risk factors for retinal concerns, a previous eye injury can increase the likelihood. A traumatic eye injury may cause a retinal tear (cut in the retinal tissues) or partial or complete retinal detachment where the light-sensitive tissue pulls away from the back of the eye. Retinal tears and detachment can happen quickly after a sports eye injury. Other eye injuries may not lead to immediate vision changes.
At the retina’s center is the macula, which is responsible for central vision. Previous eye injury or eye surgery can increase the risk of macular disease because it affects the vitreous gel that fills the eyeball. When the vitreous fluid shrinks and changes shape, the gel may pull the macula, creating a macular pucker or hole.
Common Eye Injuries Caused by Sports
Some sports have an inherently higher risk of causing eye injuries, such as baseball, basketball, football, tennis, fencing, hockey, water polo, and racquet sports. The most common eye injuries from these activities include:
- Blunt eye trauma happens when there is forceful impact to the brow or eye area that may lead to eyelid bleeding (also known as a black eye), retinal detachment, or bone fracture in the orbital socket (a broken bone around the eyeball).
- Penetrating eye trauma may lead to permanent vision loss and occurs when something sharp enters the eyeball.
- Corneal abrasions are eye injuries on the eye’s outer surface, such as debris after a baseball player dives into home plate or a fingernail in the eye during a contact sport.
- UV-related eye injuries can also happen to athletes who play winter or water sports, such as snow skiing and surfing. “Snow blindness,” or radiation eye injury, occurs when bright sunlight reflects off water or snow and damages the eyes.
- Chemical burns can affect the eyes. Athletes may experience an eye injury from chemical powders or sprays used to mark lines on the athletic field which may get kicked up into the eyes.
If you’ve suffered an eye injury or are experiencing symptoms of a retinal condition, schedule an eye exam with Dr. George Khouri in West Palm Beach, Florida. Request an appointment with Dr. Khouri online or call Palm Beach Eye Center at (561) 366-8300.