Falling and fighting are the main causes of eye injuries resulting in hospitalization in the US, according to research presented at AAO 2015, the 119th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

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Eye injuries result mostly from falls and fights.

Serious ocular trauma injuries include orbital fractures and being pierced by objects. These injuries can be expensive to treat, and in many cases are preventable.

The researchers, from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, set out to identify the most common causes of eye injuries as well as the associated hospital costs, so that prevention efforts could be better targeted.

Led by Dr. Christina Prescott, PhD, an ophthalmology professor at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins, the team identified a sample of nearly 47,000 patients aged 0-80 diagnosed with ocular trauma from 2002-11 using a national health care database.

They examined the total cost of hospitalization, cause of injury, type of injury and length of hospital stay, and grouped injured people by age.

Falls are the leading cause of eye injury, accounting for more than 8,425 hospitalizations. Most involved people aged 60 and above. Among the types of falls, slipping caused nearly 3,000 eye injuries, and falling down stairs caused 900.

Fighting was the second most common cause of ocular trauma. Nearly 8,000 hospitalizations for eye injuries were caused by fighting and various types of assault. It was also the top cause reported for ages 10-59.

For children aged 10 and under, the leading cause of eye injury was being struck by accident by a person or object. Car crashes and accidental piercings or being cut by a sharp object (such as scissors) were second and third on the list of causes.

The median cost of treating these eye injuries increased from $12,430 to $20,116 between the years 2002-11, an increase of 62%, with higher costs at large hospitals and for older patients. Income did not correlate with costs, but other factors may be involved.

Dr. Prescott says:

While we have some clues, we still can’t be certain why it’s more expensive to get treated for an eye injury now than before. It could be related to drug prices or administrative costs. Either way, it’s clear we need more targeted interventions to help reduce these types of injuries, many of which are preventable.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that each day about 2,000 US workers have a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. Around 1 in 3 of these injuries are treated in hospital emergency departments and more than 100 of them result in 1 or more days of lost work.

Fast facts about eye injury
  • In the case of a cut, puncture or foreign objects, do not wash out the eye
  • Do not try to remove a foreign object stuck in the eye
  • Seek immediate medical attention.

Learn more about eye health

The majority result from small particles or objects striking or abrading the eye, such as metal slivers, dust, wood and cement chips ejected by tools, blown by the wind, or falling from above.

Other occupational causes of eye injury include burns caused by splashing of industrial chemicals or cleaning fluids and ultraviolet radiation from welding.

Infectious eye diseases contracted by lab workers, animal handlers and health care workers are also common.

As a result, the CDC recommend following all the recommended safety precautions at work, especially the use of protective gear.

The John Hopkins researchers recommend interventions that could lower eye injury rates and overall health care costs for eye trauma inpatient visits.

Medical News Today previously reported that parents can prevent falls and ensuing injuries by keeping a close eye on their children.