December 2, 2012

Opening Champagne Safely

By Amir Arbisser, M.D.
Eye Surgeons Associates

Many people celebrate a variety of festive occasions—weddings, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day or the holidays—with champagne or other alcoholic or nonalcoholic sparkling beverages. Unfortunately, when a popping cork strikes an eye, the celebration converts into a tragedy.

A flying champagne cork resembles a guided missile. It’s the perfect size to penetrate the normal protection afforded by the orbital bones of the brow and cheek surrounding the eyeball. The eye damage resulting from popped corks can vary from a painful surface injury like a corneal abrasion to a hemorrhage inside the eye or more severe internal damage, even blindness. It may also precipitate glaucoma, cataract, or dislocated lens and retinal damage or detachment. The effects may require immediate, delayed, or lifelong medical or surgical care. Even acute care may not prevent permanent injury or vision loss in some circumstances.

Prevent eye injury by opening sparkling beverages properly. Never point an open pressurized container at anyone’s face, including your own.
How is champagne safely opened?

Start with a cold bottle. Warm bottles may pop uncontrollably (besides, champagne tastes best chilled). Treat the bottle gently. Don’t shake it up immediately prior to opening. Remove the foil covering the cork. The wire protector covers the cork for a good reason. Keep pressure on the cork with the palm of your hand, while carefully removing the wire. It is safest to place a towel over the bottle top and tilt the top away from yourself and others. The cork may be grasped firmly with one’s hand or with a special pronged tool. Slowly twist the cork to break the seal. Hold the bottle firmly with one hand while twisting the cork slowly upward. A controlled release of the cork may briefly diminish the festive pop, but may
actually prolong the fizz of your poured beverage.

Have a Safe and Happy Holiday Season!

Dr. Arbisser, a founder of Eye Surgeons Associates, is board-certified with a fellowship in Pediatric Ophthalmology. He is a diplomat of the American Board of Ophthalmology. Dr. Arbisser practices at our offices in Bettendorf, Iowa and Rock Island and Silvis, Illinois. For more information, please see our website: