Men’s Health: Watch out for nail gun injuries

Researchers find the tools are a common cause of eye trauma

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Carpenters and do-it-yourself home renovators need to keep a careful eye on safety when using nail guns. Their vision could be at stake.

When eye specialists at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston checked their records to determine the most frequent causes of traumatic eye injury, they discovered that nails in the eye were quite common.

“Many of these are from nail guns,” says Dr. Michelle Andreoli, a study researcher who is now a trainee in ophthalmology at Loyola University in Chicago. A nail gun drives nails at high speed using electromagnetism, compressed air or a small explosive charge.

Over five years, 648 patients were treated at the hospital for a punctured eyeball. Eighty injuries (12 per cent) were nail-related, and the majority of these (60 per cent) happened on the job. While data were not collected on the use of protective eyewear, Andreoli suspects many patients were not using anything to protect their eyes.

Many patients said the nail gun jammed, and they turned it around to look at it — and then it went off and shot them in the eye. The average age of the nail-injured patients was 34, and almost all of them were male.

One thing that surprised the researchers was how well the patients recovered. Many regained some degree of sight, with more than 70 per cent recovering with better than 20/40 vision. None required removal of the eye.

In the overall series of patients, the most common causes of eye injuries included other types of projectiles (20 per cent), blunt trauma (17 per cent) and falls (17 per cent).