As an eye doctor, I am saddened by Senator Reid’s recent eye injury involving an elastic band. At Spectrum Eyecare in Peachtree City, I have seen several serious injuries in the past two years that are the direct result of an elastic band snapping and hitting someone in the eye.
This type of blow to the eye causes a shockwave through the eye similar to the way a tennis or golf ball contracts and expands when being struck (see the video here: Slow motion tennis ball impact). We don’t know whether Mr. Reid’s injury is directly the result of the band hitting the eye or from the fall he took and broken eye socket bones that resulted. It does show that it is important to wear sports or safety glasses when using exercise bands.
Commonly, I see an extensive hemorrhage (hyphema) inside the eye from this type of injury. As the eye fills with blood it is like looking through a thick fog. Eventually, as the blood is resorbed by the body we can see severe swelling or bruising of the inside of the eye (retinal edema). This swelling can leave long term blurred vision. The shockwave can also tear the retina resulting in retinal detachment. The colored part of the eye can be torn away from it’s attachment to the white part of the eye resulting in glaucoma or disfigurement of the eye.
A Reuter’s story from January 9, 2015 reported on Senator Reid’s injury this way:
The 75-year-old Democrat was hospitalized following the New Year’s Day accident in Henderson, Nevada.
The senator, a former amateur boxer, has said he was using a heavy elastic band to exercise at home when the device detached from a wall and snapped, causing him to fall and suffer the injuries to his face as well as four broken ribs.
Reid, in an interview that aired on Friday with National Public Radio affiliate KNPR’s “State of Nevada” program, said that the eye injuries he suffered were so severe that doctors do not yet know if he will regain full vision in his right eye.
“They’re very hopeful but this isn’t anything that’s a slam dunk. I had serious injury to my eye,” Reid said. “There’s blood accumulated there, and they’re hoping that resolves itself. As long as the blood is in the eye it’s hard to see.”
Mr. Reid was likely asked not to drive because blood in the eye (hyphema) needs for the patient to be fairly inactive and to sleep with their head elevated to facilitate it clearing. This allows the blood to pool in the lower part of the eye so that the doctors can see in to asses whether other damage has occurred. It also allows the patient to have somewhat better vision during the healing phase.
Hopefully, Mr. Reid will recover his vision without any long term damage. He will need extra care and exams over the next few years since glaucoma and other problems can arise much later as a result of this type of injury.
If you or a loved one has suffered an eye injury seek attention from an eye doctor as soon as possible, especially if there is visible blood, pain or vision loss.
Dr. John L. Henahan is a board certified optometrist living and practicing in Peachtree City, GA. You may contact his office at 770-487-0667 or on the web at www.SpecEye.com