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Specialists call for action to reduce eye injuries

24 August 2005

Eye specialists call for action to reduce eye injuries.

Concern is rising among Eye Specialists that almost 20,000 New Zealanders suffer eye injuries each year. A significant proportion of these injuries cause severe visual impairment or even blindness.
Professor Charles McGhee from the University Of Auckland Department Of Ophthalmology admits to being puzzled as to why so many people get hurt when around 90% of these accidental eye injuries are actually avoidable!

“I find it particularly worrying that 35-40% of the more severe injuries actually occur in the home and garden” says Prof. McGhee. “This might reflect the kiwi enthusiasm for do-it-yourself activity but to lose an eye over it is a bit much.”

Professor McGhee says that eye injuries this year have been caused by all manner of objects including plants, twigs, pliers, screwdrivers and even lawnmowers! Many are also caused by more familiar risks such as sharp nail or metal fragments produced by DIY tools such as hammers, chisels, electric saws. Chemical splashes from paint strippers, acids/alkalis or concrete may also produce blinding damage to the surface of the eye.

The vast majority of these injuries could be prevented by the use of simple safety spectacles or goggles.

Professor McGhee’s comments come at the end of the 2005 “Save Our Sight” month which has been informing the New Zealand public that eye health is an essential part of maintaining overall health and wellbeing.

“Generally, people need to see well to live well and the tragedy is that many in New Zealand are going blind, or developing severe visual impairment, from preventable causes” he says.

A recent study of severe eye injuries admitted to Auckland Hospital highlighted:

-Some 75% require emergency surgery,

-Most require at least 4-5 days hospitalization followed by long periods of convalescence,

-The majority have eyesight reduced to around half of normal in the injured eye!

-One in ten of those with severe ocular injuries will lose the injured eye!

The public cost of eye injuries in New Zealand has been at least $50 million dollars in the last ten years.


Save Our Sight Month raises awareness among the general public of general health issues and vision difficulties and targets at-risk groups to remind them of the need for action to avoid injury and to detect eye health problems.

The Save our Sight campaign is led by the NZ Association of Optometrists, endorsed and supported by Retina NZ, Glaucoma NZ, Diabetes NZ, the Save Sight Society and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmology.

The symbol of the Save our Sight Campaign is the variegated Tulip. The Variegated Tulip signifies “Beautiful Eyes”.

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