Abu Dhabi: International eye specialists meeting in Abu Dhabi yesterday warned that a large number of eye-related traumas happen mainly because of a lack of awareness and care. They called on municipal and site inspection authorities to invest more in education.

Despite 90 per cent of all eye injuries being preventable with the use of protective eyewear, most countries, including the UAE, still see a large number of ocular (eye-related) traumas.

Such injuries are responsible for most cases of unilateral blindness (blindness of one eye), especially among children and those below the age of 40, they added. "At our hospital, we deal with 10 to 12 eye injuries a week. Although most are not severe enough to cause long-term blindness, we know that the rate of injuries is much higher than it would be if people took better care," said Ayesha Al Zeyodi, general ophthalmologist at Fujairah Hospital.

She was speaking on the sidelines of the 33rd World Ophthalmology Congress, which wraps up in the capital today.

Workers' negligence

Dr Ayesha explained that the majority of eye injuries referred to the Fujairah Hospital occur due to workers' negligence in safety procedures at the workplace and in factories.

"In addition, some workers want to finish work in a hurry and do not put on protective goggles every time they begin hazardous tasks like woodcutting and welding. We also see a fair number of children who hurt their eyes while playing cricket because they do not wear headgear to shield themselves," she said.

Doctors also highlighted some of the other sports known for causing the severest eye injuries.

"Baseball, paintball and hockey are especially risky, and parents must ensure that children always put on helmets. In addition, injuries sustained during badminton and squash when the ball or the cork hits the eyes are also generally severe. Unfortunately however, players do not to wear any protective gear while paying such sports," explained Dr Rupesh Agrawal, associate ophthalmology consultant from Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Singapore.

The doctor recommended the use of polycarbonate, wraparound goggles which offer maximum protection for the eyes and eye sockets.

Call for caution

"One reason why eye injuries are common is because people simply don't plan for any eventualities. A simple incident like buying your child a toy with projectile parts could lead to unilateral blindness," Dr Agrawal warned.

The ophthalmology experts also cautioned against the use of firecrackers, as well as the improper storage of harmful chemicals at home.

Use of contact lenses

While eye care experts affirmed the safety of contact lenses for correcting vision, they also warned that infections from contact lenses were on the rise.

"Many people wash their contact lenses with tap water, and this often does not remove dirt and harmful substances. In addition, people also tend to fall asleep while wearing their contact lenses and the more this is done with the same pair, the greater the risk of infection," said Dr Dasa Gangadhar, ophthalmology consultant for the Grene Vision Group in Kansas, US. The doctor advised the use of daily wear disposable lenses whenever affordable, and the rinsing of contact lenses with the appropriate cleaning solutions at all times. "People may not talk about eye care as much as they should, but the truth is that no one can afford to be careless with their vision," he added.

Longest-running medical meeting

More than 10,000 ophthalmology experts, exhibitors and scientists from across the world attended the 33rd World Ophthalmology Conference (WOC 2012). The event, which has been conducted every two years since 1857 was this year held in the Middle East and North Africa region for the first time, conference organisers said.