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    Ensuring Sight for Flight at Naval Health Clinic Oak Harbor

    Ensuring Sight for Flight at Naval Health Clinic Oak Harbor

    Photo By Douglas Stutz | Clearing the fog of FOD…Ocular trauma training with a focus on foreign body removal...... read more read more

    In conjunction with May recognized by the Defense Health Agency as Health Vision and Hearing Month, Lt. Courtney C. Rafferty, Naval Health Clinic Oak Harbor optometrist, explains the critical importance attached to the monthly theme.

    “As a Midwesterner who grew up outside of Chicago, it’s been an eye-opening experience that Oak Harbor can absolutely compete with Chicago for the title of Windy City,” said Rafferty, a Navy Medical Service Corps officer, Doctor of Optometry and Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry.

    “Windy Island might have made a more apt alternative [name] to Whidbey Island. There are gale winds over 60 mph. That’s enough force to topple semi-trucks along the scenic Deception Pass Bridge. If such a windstorm can damage 35,000 pounds of steel on wheels, envision what that can do to your vision,” stated Rafferty.

    Rafferty affirms that wind can inflict serious damage on anyone’s eyes. Windy conditions at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island can – and do - propel patients to Naval Health Clinic Oak Harbor Optometry. A common complaint is that many feel that something may have blown into their eye when they were outdoors.

    “Everyone at the air station knows that foreign object debris, more commonly known as FOD, is a serious hazard to naval aircraft. It’s also dangerous for the eyes of service members who maintain and fly the aircraft. We have seen pieces of plastic, gravel, metal, and other miscellaneous debris embedded into patients’ corneas due to the Whidbey wind,” Rafferty said. “Did you know that the cornea is one of the most sensitive tissues in the body? There are many conditions that can create the feeling that there is something stuck in the eye.”

    Rafferty stressed it is critical to be able to timely evaluate someone’s cornea to determine if there is truly a foreign object in the eye that needs to be removed by a medical provider.

    “Or if there is another ocular surface condition that would require a completely different treatment plan,” said Rafferty. “We can do this with a special fluorescein dye and a blue filter with the microscope [slit lamp] that highlights and helps reveal areas where the cornea is damaged or any foreign bodies that are present. Consider this our eye care version of a FOD walkdown.”

    According to Rafferty, foreign bodies in the eye represent one of the most common forms of eye injury or trauma, along with burns from exposure to chemical or corrosive materials. Chemical injuries account for approximately 20 percent of ocular trauma. That number may be even higher in military occupational settings.

    Any eye injury should be considered an emergency.

    “Since we are located at an air station, we have had multiple patients walk-in after accidental exposure to avionics cleaner and jet fuel. Avionic cleaners tend to be strong alkalis in nature that can have devastating effects on the eye if not treated immediately and aggressively. Highly corrosive, alkaline exposure can rapidly penetrate ocular tissue, leading to scarring and irreversible damage,” commented Rafferty.

    “We strongly recommend that everyone be familiar with the nearest eye wash station in their workplace,” Rafferty continued. “This is absolutely crucial. Irrigation is the first and most important step in response to any type of chemical ocular exposure. Although reporting directly to the nearest eye care clinic is appropriate for most ocular injuries, in the case of chemical burns it is better to first irrigate the eyes at the closest eye wash station for ten to fifteen minutes. Then proceed to your base eye care provider. Additionally, having a coworker identify the offending material/chemical, with a material data safety data sheet, to share with the eye care or medical provider.”

    Rafferty also recommends taking the same steps at home if some unknown solution or household cleaner splashes into anyone’s eye – even pets - by immediately irrigating the eyes for 10-15 minutes.

    “When irrigating at home, saline, eye wash or multipurpose contact solutions are ideal. The shower or faucet can also be used to thoroughly flush your eyes,” said Rafferty, also noting that an estimated 90 percent of ocular trauma and injuries could be prevented with appropriate eye protection.

    Especially during windy conditions swirling FOD in Puget Sound.



    Date Taken: 05.12.2023
    Date Posted: 05.12.2023 09:54
    Story ID: 444617

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