Prescription lenses can become your only source of protection against serious injuries, according to a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University looked at the safety of prescription lenses and found that glasses could be more dangerous than protective clothing.
“We wanted to get a better sense of how much protection the lens actually provided and what the impact of a prescription lens might be,” said senior author David M. Kohn, MD, associate professor of medicine and public health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“So we looked at a large number of prescription lens users and found about half of them were wearing glasses.
They were wearing a helmet, they were wearing ear protection, they had gloves, they wore face shields, and some of them had protective headgear.
But there was also a large group of people who didn’t have any protective gear at all.”
In other words, the lenses were just as likely to be wearing them as protective clothing, according the researchers.
“The helmet and the gloves and the protective head gear were actually wearing the prescription lenses as well,” Kohn said.
“And we saw that the prescription lens user group was a little bit more likely to have a concussion than the non-prescription lens user.”
Kohn and his colleagues compared the number of concussion-related hospitalizations in a large cohort of prescription glasses users to the number in a similar group of non-users.
Their results were striking: Of the roughly 4.5 million people in the study, about 70 percent of prescription users had a concussion, while about 70 of the non–prescription users had one.
“This is an incredibly important finding because it shows the extent to which prescription lenses are potentially contributing to the high rates of concussion among prescription users,” Kalkin said.
The researchers said prescription lenses should be replaced by non–glove-like protective eyewear that is easily removable.
But they warned that not replacing prescription lenses is not necessarily a bad idea.
“If we were to replace a lens with something else, like a helmet or something that can be easily removed, then we’re just creating an even greater risk of getting injured,” Kankin said, noting that wearing prescription glasses might be necessary for some people.
“For a lot of people, their lenses are not really protecting them.
They’re just a piece of protective equipment that they can use for their daily activities.”
The researchers also found that prescription lenses were not protective enough for all patients.
The number of patients with a concussion-like incident that required hospitalization was higher among those who had prescription lenses than among those without.
“People who had prescriptions for prescription lenses had a much higher rate of concussion,” Karkin said of the study participants.
“They were more likely than the people who did not have prescription lenses to have been involved in a collision.
That may have been related to the fact that people who had a prescription had a larger percentage of those injuries, which were more concussions.”
The findings are significant because prescription lenses account for about 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 3,000 concussions in the United States.
And the researchers said it’s important to look beyond the number who are injured.
“One of the big questions that has been raised is how can you predict how many people are injured by wearing prescription lenses,” Kinkin said and added that the researchers are working to improve their models.
“It’s something that we hope to be able to improve on and to get more accurate predictions,” Kaidan said.
However, Kohn cautioned that the study has limitations.
“Our sample size was limited, so we can’t say how many cases we’re talking about,” Kanks said.
Kankins team also noted that many prescription lenses have different lens designs, and they cannot be compared to each other.
“You need to know what the lenses are made of and how they function, because you can’t compare one lens to another,” Kiskin said at the news conference.
“I think that is a good point to note.”
The study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institutes of Health.
The Johns Hopkins team, including coauthors Robert J. Brown and Mark E. Rifkin, MD and senior author of the current study, has reported on prescription lenses in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The University of Pittsburgh and the Johns Hopkins researchers have also published research related to prescription lenses.
For more information on prescription safety, visit the National Library of Medicine website.