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Can bicycling abrade the corneas?

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Can bicycling abrade the corneas?

Old 01-22-19, 09:30 PM
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Arthur Peabody
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Can bicycling abrade the corneas?

I have insurance that pays for optometric care for the first time, so I went to a new optometrist (old one not in the plan). He told me my corneas were lightly abraded, attributed it to slack lids (may be true) leaving them open at night. I'm dubious. I bike a lot, and don't usually wear glasses. That seems a more likely cause. I'm 65, in case that matters. I've been riding for 58 years. No optometrist or ophthalmologist has mentioned this before.
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Old 01-22-19, 09:49 PM
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Bill in VA
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I would find an Opthomalogist (MD), rather than an optometrist, who is in your plan and get a second opinion. I did that 2 years ago at age 63 and learned that my "older eyes" issues were more than just old eyes. For routine refraction exams (new glasses) they are fine, but an opthamologist is able to better diagnose and treat more serious issues.
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Old 01-22-19, 10:35 PM
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I wondered about this after a thread a while ago about the black powder that often ends up covering parts of a bike. Having noticed this myself and curious to determine if it was rubber from car tires breaking down (as argued) or something else I scraped a bunch off with a q-tip, washed into a solution and then dropped in a strong magnet. Turns out that my sample was almost entirely magnetic particles, so not rubber. Later I did the old masking tape/nickel air pollution test and it was equally enlightening. After only a day the masking tape was covered in a relatively thick layer of particles, probably a measurable amount in dozens of milligrams based on the pile I was able to scrape off.

I've always suspected there are a lot of metal/ceramic particles floating around from automotive brake rotors and pads and wouldn't be surprised if long term exposure did have an effect. Previously I had noticed when I ride gravel, or on the road during the pollen season it's not uncommon to have significant eye discharge (rheum, eye boogers) both during a ride and hours after that is tinted the same color as the gravel surface or the color of pollen. I didn't really think anything of it at the time.

So I don't have an answer but after my little experiment I started wearing clear glasses and will continue to do so. It seems to help when riding gravel and we'll see once we start getting pollen.
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Old 01-22-19, 10:54 PM
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While the OP has apparently done it successfully for decades, if I tried riding without glasses, I would have taken a bee directly into the eyeball about 30 times. Well, more likely just that first time, after which I would have crashed into a ditch. That's ignoring the whole prescription issue.

Also, if you've ever ridden at night, the headlight will show what @Spoonrobot found with tape-- the air is chock full of floaty particles. I don't see why those couldn't help sandblast your eyeballs. Also, I was probably 30 before I found out you can sunburn your eyes. That's reason enough to wear some form of glasses, as any plastic lens will block at least 80% of UV. Coated lenses will block 100% of UVA and UVB... and help keep brake dust, road grit, and bees out of your eyes.

I have very tight eyelids-- too tight even to comfortably wear contacts-- so I can't help you there.
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Old 01-22-19, 11:09 PM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
While the OP has apparently done it successfully for decades, if I tried riding without glasses, I would have taken a bee directly into the eyeball about 30 times. Well, more likely just that first time, after which I would have crashed into a ditch. That's ignoring the whole prescription issue.
I was descending a 9% grade at 45mph when I thought a stone had hit my left lens.
Then my vision went blurry in the same eye.
When I stopped, I found bug guts covering most of the lens.
You couldn't pay me enough to ride w/o eye protection.
Also, I was probably 30 before I found out you can sunburn your eyes. That's reason enough to wear some form of glasses, as any plastic lens will block at least 80% of UV. Coated lenses will block 100% of UVA and UVB... and help keep brake dust, road grit, and bees out of your eyes.
"Ultraviolet light, specifically UVB, has also been shown to cause cataracts, and some evidence indicates sunglasses worn at an early age can slow its development in later life."
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cataract#Radiation

On the topic of sunburn, I have a friend who was stupidly snow-skiing one day w/o eye protection and spent a night in agony.
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Old 01-23-19, 12:18 AM
  #6  
eja_ bottecchia
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You guys are freaking me out...YIKES.
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Old 01-23-19, 03:33 AM
  #7  
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Our eyes do get old as we age, and discomfort is common. Watering eyes, irritation, minor abrasions from stuff that didn't bother us when we were younger. I was a longterm caregiver for both grandparents and my mom and they all developed chronic eye irritation. Now that I'm 61 I'm experiencing some of that too.

I almost always ride with safety glasses. Not just sunglasses but ANSI rated sunglasses. I've already had too many ordinary sunglasses break from impacts. I have a clear and tinted set, both with 1.5x inserts in the bottom edge of the lenses so I can see my bike computer or check my phone, or do repairs. I can't see up close without reading glasses. Usually I carry both pairs, clear and tinted, in case I'm out after dark.

Even without bugs, vehicles kicking up gravel, etc., where I ride the wind often gusts up to 35 mph, including almost every ride this year. My eyes would water and sting without eye protection. I rode the final 10 miles home Monday night without eye protection because I'd brought only my tinted safety glasses and they were too dark after sunset. With the 20 mph wind and gusts to 35 mph it was pretty uncomfortable -- I had to squint to protect my eyes from grit.

Reminds me of the opening paragraph in the great American novel The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It's a masterpiece of character development in a single paragraph. Thankfully, the movie is faithful to the novel, including the entire opening scene, due in part to the insistence of Brad Pitt.

"He was growing into middle age, and was living then in a bungalow on Woodland Avenue. He installed himself in a rocking chair and smoked a cigar down in the evenings as his wife wiped her pink hands on an apron and reported happily on their two children. His children knew his legs, the sting of his mustache against their cheeks. They didn't know how their father made his living, or why they so often moved. They didn't even know their father's name. He was listed in the city directory as Thomas Howard. And he went everywhere unrecognized and lunched with Kansas City shopkeepers and merchants, calling himself a cattleman or a commodities investor, someone rich and leisured who had the common touch. He had two incompletely healed bullet holes in his chest and another in his thigh. He was missing the nub of his left middle finger and was cautious, lest that mutilation be seen. He also had a condition that was referred to as "granulated eyelids" and it caused him to blink more than usual as if he found creation slightly more than he could accept. Rooms seemed hotter when he was in them. Rains fell straighter. Clocks slowed. Sounds were amplified. He considered himself a Southern loyalist and guerrilla in a Civil War that never ended. He regretted neither his robberies, nor the seventeen murders that he laid claim to. He had seen another summer under in Kansas City, Missouri and on September 5th in the year 1881, he was thirty-four-years-old."
--The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, by Ron Hansen

Last edited by canklecat; 01-23-19 at 03:37 AM.
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Old 01-23-19, 07:03 AM
  #8  
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Cataract surgery, multi-focal lens implants, I always wore glasses prior to both my eye surgeries. Safety glasses for me when I ride now, always. The question would be, how important do you feel that your eyesight is?
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Old 01-23-19, 07:14 AM
  #9  
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OP: If you are 65 years old, you should see an opthalmologist for a routine exam. An optometrist is fine for a simple vision exam, but an opthalmologist is a -- ahem -- real doctor.

And I always wear glasses while riding.
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Old 01-23-19, 07:21 AM
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Can bicycling abrade the corneas?

Several years ago I had an acute corneal abrasion after a bike ride.
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
As a public service announcement to my fellow cyclists, today I suffered a corneal abrasion. I did an 18 mile commute this morning into a moderate headwind but otherwise uneventful. I wear eyeglasses and had no problems with anything blowing into my eyes.

About one half hour after arriving at work, and just sitting quietly at a meeting, my eye felt like it had a particle in it. I saw no foreign material in the eyelid, nor did anyone else, and it was not relieved at an eyewash station.

I was lucky enough to get an appointment with an eye specialist at about an hour after the onset, and he did identify some black particles, and diagnosed the abrasion. From an online medical textbook:
Originally Posted by Up-to-Date.com
Often patients are too uncomfortable to work, drive, or read, and the pain frequently precludes sleep. Multiple attempts by the patient to "wash out" the eye can further disrupt the epithelial surface….

Patients with a foreign body may or may not recall an episode with material falling or flying into the eye since, depending upon the type and size of the foreign body, symptoms may not be immediate, or they may be immediate, then abate for awhile, then recur….

Patients may have had severe pain for several hours by the time they seek care. They are visibly uncomfortable, pacing or rocking or rubbing the eye, and they can be disruptive to a waiting room. During the initial triage period, they should be offered a darkened room in which to wait, asked to wait quietly with the eyes closed, and encouraged not to rub the eye…

In theory, a pressure patch promotes epithelial proliferation and migration by keeping the lid lowered and stationary over the epithelial defect; such pressure is also thought to relieve pain….Thus, the lack of proven benefit with patching, the possibility of improper patching, and potential patient discomfort and inconvenience suggest that it is reasonable to treat corneal abrasions without an eye patch.

Most corneal abrasions heal regardless of therapy in 24 to 72 hours. Vision should return to normal in that time,
My eye doctor claimed 24 to 48 hours to recovery, and my colleague (female), who asked me if I poked myself with an eyeliner wand, claimed she has gotten better overnight.

I wasn't able to work today as it was difficult even to just keep the uninvolved eye open because that irritated the affected eye. The eye doctor didn't think a patch would be useful, though I used an improvised one for a while until I realized it was probably further abrading the cornea. I was given an antibiotic ointment and I've spent most of my day with my eyes closed.


I took Alleve for the pain, and have some heavy-duty analgesics available if I need them to sleep tonight. Pain management to get over the initial phase is discussed in that article.

It's now about 15 hours after the onset of symptoms. I note improvement, and only now can keep my unaffected eye open long enough to work at the computer. I'm pretty nearsighted, and unfortunately the better eye is the involved one.


The prognosis of quick improvement has been an encouraging thought to get over this. So that's what I learned about corneal abrasions, FYI.
Originally Posted by CbadRider View Post
I got corneal abrasions a couple of times when I used to wear contacts. Nothing like feeling someone took a piece of sandpaper to your eye.

I hope you feel better soon. If I remember, it took a couple of days for the scratchiness to go away.
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Old 01-23-19, 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, by Ron Hansen
That just went on my reading list - thank you.
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Old 01-23-19, 07:57 AM
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IMHO one should always wear some kind of eye protection. Some kind of strong safety glass or plastic at least. A passing car can easily throw a piece of gravel in your eye and blind you.

The lens should be a polycarbonate.

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Old 01-23-19, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
IMHO one should always wear some kind of eye protection. Some kind of strong safety glass or plastic at least. A passing car can easily throw a piece of gravel in your eye and blind you.
This. I've had things hit my glasses multiple times, and I've only been riding a few months. I won't ride without glasses, have clear lenses for my night rides.
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Old 01-23-19, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Rides4Beer View Post
This. I've had things hit my glasses multiple times, and I've only been riding a few months. I won't ride without glasses, have clear lenses for my night rides.
There was a time I used to ride at night w/o glasses...until the night I took a low-hanging tree limb right across the bridge of the nose.
I had a good headlight, but the beam was aimed to illuminate the road, and did not light up the limb.
After that, I bought a pair of clear glasses just for night use.
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Old 01-23-19, 12:31 PM
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I'm also in the eye protection for cycling camp. I'll skip it for a short night ride in town, but otherwise, there's just too much stuff out there that I don't particularly want in my eyes.

In other scary eyeball news, apparently the corneas can suffer frostbite...
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Old 01-23-19, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by rseeker View Post
That just went on my reading list - thank you.
It deserves a place among the top ten American novels, alongside anything written by Melville, Hawthorne, Hemingway, Twain, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, Harper Lee and others. If we had to strictly limit it to the top ten, Hansen's book could easily replace anything by Hawthorne. Everything anyone needs to know about why America is the way it is can be found through a careful reading of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Besides a keen eye for revealing human foibles without condemnation, Hansen has a remarkable ear for dialog and narrative.

If you like audio books, check out the version as read by G Valmont Thomas. It's the best of the two audio book versions. He really brought the book to life. In some YouTube videos that purport to show "deleted scenes from the movie," they're actually just still photos or clips from the theatrical release of the movie with audio clips from G Valmont Thomas' audio book over the video. Thomas was a great stage actor and voice actor, but little known to most folks. He died too young a couple of years ago.
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Old 01-23-19, 04:01 PM
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Whether you have health problems in your eyes or not, wearing glasses while riding is a must. Always.
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Old 01-23-19, 05:35 PM
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First season I was cycling "properly" I got fed up just with getting some small insect in my eye during the summer virtually every time I went for a ride so got some glasses..

Glad I did just to stop that and the discomfort every evening but I also had a large bug hit them at speed and wonder if it could have seriously damaged the eye if I hadn't been wearing them .... It left a mark which at 1st I thought was just bug guts stuck on the lens (part of it was) and left them to soak in water overnight so it'd come off easily and that's when I realised it wouldn't budge and was a sizable scratch on the lens.

I do however suffer from sweat / salt in the eyes on long rides in the summer ... really makes me feel tired / sore eyes in the evenings.
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