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Victoria's Eye-Popping Secret

The American Academy of Ophthalmology is launching an EyeSmart campaign today to raise public awareness about eye injuries and teach people how to avoid them. Interesting tidbit: Contrary to popular belief, most eye injuries occur at home, not in the workplace or at high-risk places like construction sites.

And those injuries can occur in the most peculiar ways. I have no idea what really happened when 52-year-old Makrida Patterson put on her Victoria's Secret thong last May. Patterson has filed suit against the intimate apparel vendor for selling a defective product: She says a heart-shaped metallic bangle that was part of her underwear flew off and hit her in the eye, cutting the cornea. Apparently she missed some work and required treatment with topical steroids.

I will of course leave it to the court to judge the merits of her case. But while lots of commentators are writing the whole thing off as silly, I say that anyone who has suffered a cornea cut at least deserves some sympathy. Corneal abrasions hurt!

The only person in my family never to have had a cut or scratched cornea is my glasses-wearing husband. Mine got scraped when I leaned down to pick up my little boy, who was reaching out for me; his little fingernail poked my eye, and I was in immediate and excruciating pain. So I knew what he was going through when, a few years later, he cut his eye with, of all things, the stem of an apple he'd just plucked from a tree. My daughter's cornea got singed (not cut) when a cinder from a firework launched at a city-sponsored Fourth of July celebration drifted into her eye. (We sued no one.)

Thomas Steinemann, a media spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) who practices at the MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, says that the cornea is "the most sensitive 12 millimeters on the whole body," featuring "more nerve endings per square millimeter than anywhere else on the body."

"The cornea is as big as a dime and as thick as a credit card," Steinemann says, "and when you hurt it, you know it." He says that intense pain is a defense mechanism that forces you to close your injured eye before more damage is done.

The good news is that corneal abrasions heal very quickly, usually within a day or two. Deeper cuts, or lacerations, may need stitches (yikes!) and take longer to heal.

If you get your cornea scratched or cut, you need to go to an ophthalmologist or even the emergency room; Steinemann says ERs are well equipped to deal with these injuries. (My kids and I were treated by our regular docs.) Standard treatment includes application of antibiotic cream and patching the eyelid shut so it won't keep rubbing over the cut (which keeps the cut from healing and hurts like the dickens). Eyedrops containing ibuprofen can be used to combat the pain.

The campaign doesn't specifically warn about underwear-related eye injuries. But let's be careful with those thongs, anyway, okay?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  July 1, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  General Health  
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I used to wear contacts back in the 60's - 70's when they were made of hard plastic. It took forever to get used to wearing them, your nose ran, eyes watered. You were supposed to limit the time you wore them daily. Once while on vacation I flew longer than I expected, going through Immigration, getting to the hotel. I finally removed my contacts and went to bed. Next day my eyes were so painful I spent the first two days of vacation in a dark hotel room, curtains closed, cold cloth over my eyes. I'm back to wearing glasses again.

Posted by: Former contact lens wearer | July 1, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

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