Fishing hooks, hammers and falls: the cost of eye-penetrating injuries in Australia revealed

Westmead Hospital ophthalmology cornea specialist Dr Chameen Samarawickrama

A fishing hook. A hammer. Falling construction materials… imagine having an accident where a sharp or blunt object penetrates your eye.

That’s the reality for about 930 Australians a year who suffer from open globe injuries.

New research from Westmead Hospital ophthalmology cornea specialist Associate Professor Chameen Samarawickrama has provided critical information on the extent and financial impact of these horrific injuries.

Apart from the pain, open globe injuries have devastating and lifelong implications for your vision, quality of life and are one of the leading causes of single eye vision loss worldwide. 

The research was conducted in a ten-year audit of Westmead Hospital patients who presented to the hospital with these eye injuries.

“Young males at work were the highest risk of experiencing an open globe injury and the majority, 89.1 per cent, were not wearing appropriate eye protection,” Associate Professor Samarawickrama said.

The research showed 155 adult patients had open globe injuries which required surgery.

“Out of these patients, 50 per cent of them had one surgery, 25 per cent had two surgeries, and the other 25 per cent had three or more. The most we saw was nine surgeries.”

Falls in the elderly, particularly at home, were also highly represented with up to 66.7 per cent of these cases left blind. One of the main risk factors for falls is untreated poor vision.

“It’s a vicious cycle for the elderly as falls can lead to eye injuries, and eye injuries can lead to more falls,” Associate Professor Samarawickrama added.

Associate Professor Samarawickrama stressed the need to reduce these numbers because the majority of these injuries are preventable, and they have a huge financial burden for the individual and community.

The costs to Australia are immense and estimated to be between $48.1 to $60.5 million annually.

“This is an underestimation of true cost as it does not include loss in quality of life, psychological stressors, and impacts on family and the community. 

“Unfortunately, recovery is a very slow, long process and often it’s fraught with complication but the good news is nearly all open globe injuries are preventable,” said Associate Professor Samarawickrama.

Always wear protective eyewear whenever there is the slightest chance of eye injury – at both work and home.

WSLHD’s “Stepping On” is a wellbeing program for Over 65s who have had a fall or are worried about their balance. This is a free, friendly community program is designed to help participants improve their balance, strength and confidence – all to prevent falls.

To read more on open globe injuries and Associate Professor Samarawickrama’s research, head here.