Fights and falls 'top causes for eye injuries' in the US, finds study

A study of 47,000 patients reveals brawling and falling account for the majority of eye injury hospitalisations

16 Nov 2015 by Ryan O'Hare

Falling and fighting were responsible for the majority of eye injuries among adults in the United States, according to research by John Hopkins University in the US.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Ophthalmology in Las Vegas. Researchers suggest that many instances of severe ocular trauma caused by brawls and falls, and their associated costs, could be avoided.

Researchers looked at 47,000 patients diagnosed with ocular trauma over a 10-year period, from 2002–2011, recording the cause and type of injury, and length and cost of hospitalisation.

Falls came in as the primary cause, accounting for 8,425 ocular injuries, with the majority occurring in the over-60 age group. Slipping was responsible for almost 3000 injuries, with falling down the stars accounting for 900 injuries.

Fighting was the second most common cause of ocular trauma overall, with injuries resulting from an “unarmed fight or brawl” accounting for almost 8000 hospitalisations. In addition, this was the top cause for eye injury hospitalisations among those aged 10–59.

The study also showed the increasing cost of treating these injuries. Adjusting for inflation using the consumer price index, it showed the average cost increased 62%, from $12,430 in 2002 to $20,116 in 2011.

Lead researcher and professor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins, Dr Christina Prescott, said: “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.”

Dr Prescott added: “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.”

While eye emergency data is not routinely captured in the UK, a 2013 report from the College of Optometrists and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists indicates that work-related injuries account for by far the most A&E visits for ocular trauma, with an estimate of more than 83,600 cases a year (70% of the total). The report estimates that leisure activities accounted for 18%, while assaults accounted for an estimated 2% of total A&E submissions.

It adds that some cases are potentially preventable through simple interventions such as using plastic containers for drinks to reduce alcohol-related incidents, and wearing protective eyewear for hazardous work or sports.

Image credit: Krosseel

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