Keep an eye out when you pop the cork this New Year’s Eve


By Dr. George Meers

New Year’s celebrates new beginnings and old friendships. “For auld lang syne” can be loosely interpreted as a way to say “To the days gone by.” This year we say goodbye to 2019 and look toward a bright 2020. 

First Night Tacoma looks to have lots to offer this year. They are featuring a Tree of Life, a kids new year at 9 p.m. and plenty for the rest of us to do until midnight. Many of us are planning to celebrate with our good friends. This could be in our homes or at a restaurant. No matter where we are this New Years Eve, celebrating means drinking and opening champagne to lots of people. Champagne seems to be part of any major celebration.

If you can remember back to when the Seahawks won their last NFL championship or the Patriots winning last year you will remember there is lots of champagne, there are lots of corks popping and more champagne is being sprayed than consumed. You may also remember a lot of players wearing Oakley Ski goggles to protect their eyes. A champagne bottle can have more than 80 pounds of pressure built up behind the cork. Room temperature champagne can be even higher – a bottle that has been shaken can be even higher. This pressure can result in a cork being ejected at nearly 60mph! If you combine that speed with improper and unsafe cork removal your New Years could end with a trip to the emergency room. Injuries from champagne bottle corks are more common than people may think, in the USA they happen most often around the holidays. These injuries can result in long lasting side effects.

In 2003 a study was published in the European Journal of Ophthalmology. It was written by eye doctors from Modena, Italy. This region of Italy is known for making a sparkling red wine known as Lambrusco. What these researchers noted was ten percent of hospital admission from their ER (patients had to spend the night in the hospital) were due to cork eye injuries. Nearly all of these injuries were serious. Injuries happened more often with room temperature bottles of sparkling Lambrusco and champagnes. Most patient’s vision was 20/100 (poor vision). Many developed injuries to the cornea (the front part of the eye) or a bleeding within the eye that healed with time. Several patients developed long term complications like cataract, traumatic glaucoma, traumatic retinal detachment or worse.

Follow these guidelines when opening a bottle of champagne:

  • Chill champagne to 45 degrees.
  • Do not shake the bottle.
  • Point the bottle 45 degrees away from yourself; do not point the bottle at others.
  • Remove the muselet or wire cage (this is traditionally twisted six times by corking machines) and remove the foil.
  • Cover the cork and neck with a towel. Place one hand on the bottle neck and your other hand on the shoulder of the bottle.
  • Turn the cork in a controlled manner letting the gas escape slowly and remove the cork from the bottle.
  • Do not use a knife or wine opener to open a champagne bottle.

If you or a friend does suffer an eye injury from a cork, go directly to the ER. Seek immediate medical attention. Have a safe and fun New Year!

Dr Meers is an optometrist at Tacoma Eye, located at 6004 Westgate Blvd. He is residency trained and board certified in medical optometry. He can be reached at (253) 220-2563 or He hopes to SEE you all in 2020!

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