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October 2009

Ask the Doctor

What kind of eyewear can I use to protect my eyes?

Rachel Bishop.
Rachel Bishop, M.D.
Chief, Consult Services Section
National Eye Institute

Every home should have at least one pair of safety glasses or goggles made from lightweight polycarbonate plastic, says NEI ophthalmologist Dr. Rachel Bishop. Most hardware and home improvement stores sell this type of glasses.

To make sure yours meet the safety standards of the American National Standards Institute, look for "ANSI Z87.1" stamped on one of the arms. Such high-quality eye protection will "stop a golf ball traveling at 90 miles per hour," Dr. Bishop says.

She recommends that people wear eye protection not only in hazardous workplace environments, but also while working around the house with machines, chemicals or tools. Nearly half of the more than 2.5 million eye injuries that occur in the U.S. every year happen at home, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology's 2009 Eye Injury Snapshot.

To make sure your protective eyewear meets the safety standards of the American National Standards Institute, look for "ANSI Z87.1" stamped on one of the arms.

"I have seen many patients who have injured their eyes while mowing the lawn or weed-whacking," she says.

In addition, Dr. Bishop urges every athlete to wear eye protection, as about 40,000 sports-related eye injuries occur each year. Eye protection for athletes will have "ASTM F803" stamped on the arm if it meets the sports-specific safety standards.

She also recommends that everyone wear sunglasses, which block the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. Sunglasses are especially important in situations where glare is a problem, such as while water or snow skiing.

"Any time you feel the need to squint, you should have sunglasses on," she advises.

And adults aren't the only ones who need to protect their eyes from injury and ultraviolet light. "Your children should wear safety glasses and sunglasses too," she adds.

Read tips on finding the proper eye protection for sports here. Download a fact sheet about eye safety at work here.

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Department of Health and Human Services NIH, the National Institutes of Health