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University of Iowa News Release

March 3, 2003

UI Vision Specialists: Protect Your Eyes While Working

To mark March as Workplace Eye Safety Month, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and vision specialists across the nation want to alert Americans to the possibility of eye injuries in the workplace.

Despite existing safety legislation and educational programs, more than 2,000 employees sustain job-related eye injuries each working day in the United States, making workplace injury a leading cause of ocular trauma, visual loss and blindness. Of these, 10 to 20 percent will be disabling because of temporary or permanent vision loss.

Ninety percent of these injuries can be prevented with appropriate protective eyewear. Many of those injured workers reported that they did not think they needed to wear eye protection or were wearing eyewear inappropriate for the job. Safety eyewear must have "ANSI Z87.1" marked on the frame or lens.

Culver Boldt, M.D., University of Iowa associate professor of ophthalmology, and the Academy agree that wearing proper eye protection is a matter of vital importance to worker health and safety because industries such as construction and automotive repair can be hazardous.

As more people use computers in the workplace, complaints of eye fatigue, difficulty focusing and discomfort have also become common. We have moved into the computer age, but many of our offices have not. Lighting, furniture and desk configurations that worked fine for typewriters add to fatigue and discomfort when working with computers.

"Computer screens don't damage vision, but you might still experience eye strain. Fortunately, rearranging your computer workstation, taking more frequent rest breaks or getting proper glasses or contact lenses can often relieve these symptoms," Boldt said.

Heating and air conditioning systems in office buildings can increase problems with dry eyes during the winter, Boldt added. Dry eye occurs when the eye doesn't produce enough tears to keep the eye comfortable. Usual symptoms include stinging or burning eyes, scratchiness, a feeling that there is something in the eye, excessive tearing or difficulty wearing contact lenses. Over-the-counter eye drops usually do the trick, but if the problems persist, see your eye care professional for an evaluation.

To learn about protective eyewear for your occupation, or to pinpoint the cause of your discomfort, see your eye care professional.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at http://www.uihealthcare.com.

STORY SOURCE: Joint Office for Planning, Marketing and Communications, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room 8798 JPP, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

CONTACT(S): Tom Moore, 319-356-3945, thomas-moore@uiowa.edu. Writer: Cheryl Hodgson