Air guns blamed for soaring rates of eye injuries among children, teens

SAN DIEGO, CALIF (June 4th, 2015) - Summer vacation is upon us and eye doctors and ER staffs are bracing themselves for a surge of vision-threatening eye injuries caused by toy guns that shoot plastic bullets.

According to a recent study by Stanford University researchers, rates for eye injuries from airsoft guns soared more than 500% between 2010 and 2012. The study, drawn from data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, found that more than 3,000 children were treated in emergency departments in 2012 alone for eye injuries incurred by these replica firearms. Other recent studies have shown a similar rise in eye injuries among children and teens, especially those who play paintball. The Stanford study focused primarily on “nonpowder” guns - toys using air, electricity, or springs instead of explosive powder - which researchers largely attribute to the rise in eye injuries.   

“Parents shouldn’t be fooled by the word ‘airsoft’ when it comes to these products,” says Sandy T. Feldman, MD, a top-rated eye surgeon and LASIK specialist based in San Diego. “These are not harmless toys. Toys are not something that should ever have the potential to cause serious or permanent vision loss.”

There have been recent reports of teens with irreparably damaged eyesight after playing with airsoft guns, such as an 8th grade boy in Colorado who suffered a punctured eyeball and torn retina after a friend accidentally shot him at close range.

“I cringe every time I see kids playing with air guns, BB guns, or paintball guns, especially when there’s no adult supervision,” says Dr. Feldman. “Oftentimes, they aren’t wearing eye protection and that’s just an accident waiting to happen.”

The most common eye injuries range from minor scratches on the cornea (the protective outer covering of the eye) to the more serious condition of hyphema-bleeding inside the eye. According to Dr. Feldman, hyphemas can often clear up on their own but also make the eye more susceptible to glaucoma in the future.

“If you are a parent, insist that your kids put on protective eyewear and keep close watch whenever these air guns are in use,” says Dr. Feldman. “Spending all day in the ER with a painful and possibly permanent eye injury, that’s not fun for anyone.”

About Sandy T. Feldman, MD
Sandy T. Feldman, MD is the Medical Director of Clearview Eye & Laser Medical Center - voted best LASIK center in San Diego by CityBeat Magazine in 2013 - and has successfully performed more than 20,000 refractive procedures. Her numerous awards include “Top Doc San Diego” and the Goldline Award, an honor granted to only 10 laser eye care providers in the U.S. each year, and she has been profiled in Forbes, Newsweek, and other respected publications. Dr. Feldman is a fellow of the prestigious American College of Ophthalmic Surgeons, as well as a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. For more information, please visit clearvieweyes.com.