Airsoft gun. For many people, this may sound like a harmless, Styrofoam toy weapon made by the Nerf company. Far from a toy, however, an airsoft gun, or air gun, is a replica of a real firearm that shoots small, lightweight plastic bullets or BBs. Pre-dating paintball, air guns were designed for younger and older people alike to practice target shooting and play war games in the woods. Air guns are growing in popularity, and so are the eye injuries they cause.
An eye-opening study found that since 2010, the number of people admitted to the hospital for eye injuries from air guns has increased by a staggering 600 percent or more. In fact, most children’s eye injuries that led to a hospital admission were caused by air guns.
Unfortunately, eye damage from an air gun injury is often long lasting. In the study, nearly three out of 10 young patients who suffered air-gun injuries still had poor eyesight after treatment, with visual acuity worse than 20/50.
Here are some of the types of eye trauma ophthalmologists see frequently from air gun use:
There are no laws in the U.S. that regulate air guns. Many states allow children under the age of 18 to buy and use these so-called “toy” weapons. Without using these guns responsibly, kids—and adults—are risking their vision.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Medical Association are encouraging people who use air guns to wear the proper type of protective goggles. This is the only way to prevent possible vision loss from air gun use.