As you may or may not know, October is both home eye safety awareness month and eye injury prevention month. Both of these cover a lot of topics, but let’s start with home eye safety. Autumn is generally a busy time for home repairs and lawn maintenance. While San Diego seasons aren’t as drastic as many other parts of the country, we get our fair share of furnace inspections and fallen leaf piles. Safety googles are a must for any home improvement project, as well as significant gardening projects. I’m sure we’ve all had patients with the classic “a piece of grass flew in my eye while I was mowing the lawn and now my eye is red and painful”. Most of these cases tend to be mild corneal or conjunctival abrasions or even just significant ocular irritation, but vegetative material does have a higher risk of fungal infection so they must be evaluated carefully. Set a good example in your neighborhood by wearing safety glasses for appropriate tasks and remind your friends as well.
Eye injuries can come in many forms. Sports related injuries are very common, especially among children. Finger pokes and fingernail lacerations are very common in sports such as basketball, karate, and mixed martial arts, even soccer and football. As optometrists, we can help triage these injuries for inexperienced parents and coaches. While subconjunctival hemes appear gruesome, simple reassurance that it is a self-limiting condition can be beneficial. Of course, if corneal or conjunctival laceration is suspected, a more in depth evaluation is warranted. Any significant eye pain, loss of vision, diplopia or suspected iritis or hyphema must be assessed immediately.
Especially important this time of year is the use of cosmetic contact lenses for Halloween. We have all read horror stories online about severe corneal ulcers resulting from improperly fit contacts obtained without a prescription. Now is the best time to not only warn your patients about the potentially sight threatening complications of these contacts, but add to your business by offering cosmetic contact lens fits. Likely many patients don’t realize it is a service you can provide to make that Halloween costume extra special and also safe for their eyes. Some patients may require only color enhancing contacts that you already have in office. Who says Halloween can’t be safe, fun and profitable?
In addition to cosmetic color contacts, there are other cosmetic enhancements that can potentially cause harm to the eye including side effects from Lattise, eyelash extensions, and permanent eye makeup. While unfortunately optometrists are not able to prescribe Lattise in California, it is possible to have Lattise-related red eye patients walk into our offices. Lattise is the prostaglandin analogue latanoprost (used to treat glaucoma) cosmetically sold to apply directly to the eyelids to increase eyelash growth. Major side effects include redness/irritation of the eye and eyelid, burning/stinging, and increased skin/iris pigmentation. Discontinuing the medication or artificial tears are generally all that is needed to treat most side effects. Eyelash extensions are individual lashes glued to existing eyelashes to give the appearance of thicker, longer eyelashes. The extensions are typically made of silk or synthetic material and applied with a glue designed to last 3-4 weeks. Though reported as rare, side effects include increased risk of bacterial infection, allergy to the lash material or glue, and trichiasis from improperly applied extensions. Permanent eye makeup is the tattooing of ink along the lash line (eyeliner) or within the eyebrow (to give the appearance of more defined brows). Though a “permanent” procedure, the results typically fade over time. Risks include infection (especially from improperly sterilized equipment) or an allergic reaction to the ink. While these are all generally safe procedures, it’s important know and educate patients about potential risks.
Have a safe and happy October and Halloween!!