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Despite the proliferation of public education programs, the leading cause of eye injuries in the United States continues to be from work-related accidents, says the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Every year, tens of thousands of people are treated in emergency rooms for accidents involving chemicals, flying particles and machinery. The tragedy is that most such accidents could be avoided or the effects made less severe if people wore safety glasses.

"The majority of the eye injury patients we treat are young people, averaging 30 years of age," says Dr. Mariana D. Mead, director of the infirmary's Eye Emergency Service.

Mead has a few tips on eye injuries.

For chemical splashes or spills, the eye should be flushed out with water for at least 10 minutes. If water is unavailable, non-irritating fluids such as beer or soft drinks can be used.

After flushing out the eye, the injured person should seek medical treatment immediately if there is pain or irritation in the eye or if there is decreased vision.

If there is a foreign object in the eye or the suspicion that the eye has ruptured, the injured person should go to a doctor immediately. Do not touch the eye, force open the eyelid, or put pressure on the eye.

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