Eyeglasses may help you see better and avoid walking into trouble every day, but a new study shows failing to protect those specs during risky activities could put your eyes at risk.

Researchers found injuries related to wearing eyeglasses sent an estimated 27,000 people to emergency rooms in the U.S. during a recent two-year period. More than 1,000 of those injured by their eyeglasses were admitted to the hospital for further treatment for their injuries.

But researchers say the vast majority of these eyeglass-related injuries could have been prevented.

"Some 90 percent of eye injuries are preventable with better education and appropriate use of safety eyewear during activities with a high risk of eye injury," says researcher Sara Sinclair, MPH, research associate at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Columbus Children's Hospital, in a news release.

"While it can be quite costly to put special prescription lenses into already expensive, yet safe, frames, working-aged adults who work in hazardous areas may want to consider using protective safety goggles,” says Sinclair. "For children who wear glasses, it's important that parents know that prescription eyeglasses aren't able to take the same kind of impact that sport-specific eyewear can. These kinds of glasses are typically much more flexible and impact-resistant."

First Aid for Eye Injuries

Watch Those Eyeglasses

Researchers say 60 percent of Americans wear prescription glasses, but there are few statistics on eyeglass-related injuries.

In the study, researchers analyzed dates from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System to determine the number of injuries caused by eyeglasses treated in U.S. emergency departments from Jan. 1, 2002, to Dec. 31, 2006. They defined eyeglass-related injuries as traumatic events in which the glasses were directly involved in the injury and cases in which a foreign object entered the eye while the person was wearing eyeglasses.

Applying their results to national estimates, the results showed that an estimated 27,152 injuries related to wearing glasses were treated in 2002 and 2003. Of those, 1,031 (4 percent) required admittance for further treatment.

Your Complete Guide to Eye Health

Injuries Vary by Age, Sex

"We also found that injuries related to wearing glasses vary by age and gender," says researcher Huiyun Xiang, MD, MPH, assistant professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University, in the release.

Falls accounted for 90 percent of eyeglass-related injuries among older adults and more than a quarter of injuries among working-aged adults. Meanwhile, sports and recreational activities were the greatest cause of eyeglass-related injuries among children, accounting for nearly 37 percent of injuries.

Cuts to the face, head, or eyeball were the most common type of injury among all age groups and accounted for about two-thirds of all injuries reported. Bruises and scrapes were a distant second with about 20 percent of injuries.

Other findings include:

--Older adults were nearly 30 percent more likely to injure their face and head than working-aged adults.

--Working-aged adults were most likely to directly injure an eyeball: 37 percent of working-aged adults, compared with 13 percent of children and just below 7 percent of older adults, suffered eyeball injuries.

--As age increased, so did the number of women who suffered eyeglass-related injuries. Women over 65 accounted for nearly two-thirds of eyeglass-related injuries among their age group.

--Face and head injuries were more common than eyeball injuries among both men and women, but men had a higher percentage of eyeball injuries.

"Injuries related to eyeglasses represent a significant public health problem in all age groups, but eye injuries among working-aged adults are one of the leading causes of blindness," says Xiang.

By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Ann Edmundson, MD

SOURCES: Sinclair, S. Ophthalmalic Epidemiology, 2006, vol 13: pp 23-30. News release, Ohio State University.