The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that about 2,000 workers in the United States sustain job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment daily. It is believed that 90 percent of these injuries could be either prevented, or steps could be taken to lessen the severity.
According to The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the most common causes for eye injuries include tools, particles, chemicals, flying objects, such as bits of metal or glass; or a combination of these or other hazards. These types of injuries, the AAO said, range from simple eye strain to severe trauma that can cause permanent damage, vision loss, and blindness.
Puneet Braich, MD, MPH, an ophthalmologist with Trinity Regional Eyecare–Western Dakota, in Williston, believes that bits of metal caught in the eye are the most common workplace eye-related injury – especially since that makes up the majority of those types of injuries he sees in his office.
“It’s probably a case we see on a daily basis,” he said. “We live in a region where there are those types of workers; we have people grinding certain materials and a chunk of metal will get on to their cornea. Once it’s lodged in there – it hasn’t penetrated the eye – it’s in a spot where someone’s nails can’t get it out.”
Dr. Braich noted that while these patients do wear safety glasses, “things can still come around the edge of the lenses. If they were wearing goggles, that would be a barrier. Something would have to shatter the goggle to get to their eye.”
However, even goggles can be “tricky,” Dr. Braich said. Patients removing the goggles sometimes get debris in the eye if the debris is on the top of the goggles. Dr. Braich recommends shaking the goggles before removing them from the face, as well as keeping eyes closed during the removal.
To treat these patients, a small needle is used to remove the metal from the eye. “If the metal lands on the peripheral aspects of the cornea, it won’t be a big deal. You get it out with the needle and two days later, they should be feeling better and the tissue regenerates” Dr. Braich said. “If it gets into the visual axis, the pathway for creating optimal vision, it could cause a scar and cause some permanent reduction in visual potential.”
The procedure for removing the metal, with the right equipment “takes less than 30 seconds,” Dr. Braich said.
A referral is not needed for this procedure, as this would be considered an emergency, Dr. Braich said. “The majority of ER doctors will see this and say, ‘You need to see an ophthalmologist.’”
While ER doctors sometimes can remove the metal, many do not have the expertise to remove the rust ring as well, Dr. Braich said. “We have a microscope to look at their corneas. We have a magnified view and remove not only the metal, but the rust ring.”
Ophthalmologists with Trinity Health are available to help in such a situation.
David Jacobs, MD; Evelyne Kindy, MD; Darrell Williams, MD; and Chad Wolsky, MD, are based at Health Center–Plaza 16, 2815-16th St SW, Minot, and can be reached at 701-852-3937. Puneet Braich, MD, MPH, and Mark Raymond, MD, are based at Trinity Regional Eyecare– Western Dakota, 1321 W Dakota Pkwy, Williston, and can be reached at 701-572-7641. Robert A. Dicken, MD, is based at Trinity Regional Eyecare–Devils Lake, 404 Highway 2 E, Devils Lake, and can be reached at 701-662-4085.