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backyard When it comes to landscaping, nothing puts the finishing touches on a tidy garden or yard like a power lawn trimmer. Trimmers are the second most popular lawn implement, behind the lawn mower, with gardeners and homeowners.

Unfortunately, these nylon lawn trimmers are now the fifth leading cause of penetrating eye injuries. Each year, trimmers alone cause more than 1,500 eye injuries. Operating at speeds up to 8500 revolutions per minute, these trimmers spin off tiny fragments of the nylon line, which can enter the eye along with dirt and grass debris. The result: corneal lacerations and fungal infections severe enough to threaten sight.

But trimmers aren't the only danger when working in the garden or yard. Small stones from a lawn mower's blade can also cause a devastating eye injury. In addition, tree or bush branches can cause painful scratches to the eye. And, dust from fertilizers and weed killers can cause burns or eye irritations.

To help prevent eye injuries in the home garden environment:

  • Wear wrap-around safety goggles, made of polycarbonate--the strongest lens material available. You can find these at most hardware and department stores. Look for the label, American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1 standards.
  • Don't rely on ordinary prescription glasses for eye safety. Although they are impact-resistant, they are not safety eyewear. In addition, chemical or spray dust can get around the sides easily and into the eyes.
  • Wear sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of the sun's UV-A and UV-B ultraviolet radiation and screen out 75 to 90 percent of light. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light over time can cause cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, which are potentially blinding. Wide-brimmed caps and hats can only eliminate about 50 percent of UV radiation from reaching the eyes.
  • Additional tips for picking out sunglasses: If you can see your eyes through the lenses, the glasses are not dark enough. Look for a gray tint lens, as to not distort color perception.
  • Cover the sharp tips of bamboo or metal stakes (often used for tomato or climbing plants) with plastic wire nuts to prevent an accidental puncture wound.

If an eye injury occurs, apply these emergency care procedures and then call our office immediately.

  • For chemical splashes, flood the eye non-stop with low-pressure water for 15 minutes to dilute or remove the chemical.
  • For blows to the eye, apply cold compresses for 15 minutes.
  • Never wash an eye that is cut or punctured. Bandage it lightly and go to the hospital.
  • If an object is stuck in the eye, leave it there and seek treatment at the hospital.
  • For foreign material in the eye, don't rub. Lift the upper eyelid outward and pull it down over the lower lashes. This will cause tears, which can flush the foreign matter out. If not, seek the treatment at the hospital.

Last but not least, remember to have an eye examination every year. Good vision is needed to read instructions on seed packages, fertilizer bags and weed killer bottles, and for spotting those pesky weeds.