Eye injuries, heart issues jump during Carnival



Posted on February 28, 2014 at 5:41 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 28 at 6:23 PM

Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

NEW ORLEANS - While most of the city is off of work and having fun at the parades, doctors are gearing up for a long, four-day work weekend.

And they say there are two common health problems that could take you off of the parade route.

Doctors in New Orleans get a type of E.R. training  like nowhere else.

"There was one study, in one of the health care journals, that showed that there was an increase of 130 patients per day in emergency rooms from Mardi Gras," explained Dr. Kevin Kirchner, a board-certified ophthalmologist who specializes in ocular plastics and neuro-ophthalmology with New Orleans Eye Specialists. He practices at Touro, East Jefferson General Hospital and at the VA in Biloxi.

Eye doctors are especially busy during Carnival time. 

"Corneal abrasion being the most common, that needs to be seen and treated. But also I've seen retinal detachments from projectile throws that have hit the eye and then I've had to suture up lacerations," said Dr. Kirchner. 

Parade goers of every age should protect their eyes with glasses. And symptoms of pain or the feeling like something is in the eye, should not be ignored.

And protecting your eyes from throws hitting them isn't the only thing doctors say you have to worry about this Carnival season. There's also something called 'Holiday Heart Syndrome.' 

"We will see spikes of people coming in with irregular heart beats like atrial fibrillation, or coming in, in heart failure," predicts Dr. J.P. Reilly, an interventional cardiologist and Vice-chairman of the department of cardiology at Ochsner.

The culprit is alcohol. Excessive amounts exacerbate an irregular heart rhythm.

"For patients who have heart disease, alcohol can bring on an episode of an arrhythmia. The Holiday Heart Syndrome is when people have normal hearts, go on a binge, drink, go on holiday, or at holiday time, drink excessively and come, bang, with atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heart rate," explained Dr. Reilly. 

Cardiologists say if you have a heart condition and get symptoms, go to an E.R. You could be at higher risk for a heart attack or stroke. If you don't have a heart condition, that you know of, and get symptoms, sit and relax. But if symptoms last an hour or so, get to a hospital. Don't let too much carnival rain on your parade.   

Cardiologists say that along with alcohol, excessive amounts of food, mixed with caffeine and lack of sleep, can also cause your heart rate to go up.


Symptoms of a rapid heart rate can be palpitations, fluttering in the chest, shortness of breath.