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Doctor warns of festive season eye hazards

Whether it be flying champagne corks, stray Christmas tree branches or ill-fired toy guns, the outlook for Australian eyes isn’t good this summer.

Eye injuries typically increase over the holiday period as Australians became more active, Sydney eye doctor Patrick Versace says.

He’s warning people to take note of potential eye hazards and what to do if disaster strikes.

A common injury comes from the popped champagne cork, which can travel 60cm in one-twentieth of a second – about half the time of our blink reflex.

“It is usually the cornea – the clear, dome-shaped surface of the eye – that receives the full impact of what is essentially a high-velocity missile,” the ophthalmologist said.

“Damage to the iris – the coloured part of the eye – and tearing of the retina – the tissue lining the eye that controls image signals – is possible, and in severe cases we may need to work quickly to save a person’s sight.”

Cornea abrasions occur on Christmas tree branches while people are reaching in for a Christmas present, and from soft foam projectiles.

Dr Versace says these can be treated with antibiotic drops to avoid any eye infection.

Another notorious culprit is recoiling elastic such as burst balloons, cords and straps, especially those with metal hooks for securing loads.

Swift treatment is important, and deep eye injuries can need urgent attention to prevent internal bleeding and potential blindness.

People experiencing immediate pain, blurred vision and bleeding in the eye require urgent attention and should persist in seeking medical care.

Where GPs, optometrists or eye specialists aren’t available, Dr Versace directs people to hospitals with ophthalmic units.

And if you spy a miniature, handheld, illegal laser in your stocking, it’s important to remember a laser shone into the eye will burn the retina.

“Laser burns are an irreversible injury that at best will cause some loss of vision and at worst, will render a person blind,” Dr Versace said.

More than 10,000 people a year are hospitalised with eye injuries, according to a 2018 report for the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Falls (35 per cent), mechanical forces (25 per cent) and assaults (23 per cent) were the leading causes of injury.

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