Eye Care » Infections and Irritations
Like any organ, the eye is subject to problems and illnesses.
Dry eye is the loss or reduction of the eye’s normal ability to produce tears. It is one of the most frequent causes of visits to an eye care professional.
A variety of factors may cause or contribute to this problem.
- Medications, including antihistamines, birth control pills, diuretics, cardiovascular medications, pain relievers, and anti-inflammatories
- Eye strain from reading or computer work
- A dry environment
Typical symptoms of dry eye include
- Stinging or burning
- A gritty feeling
- Discharge that forms a crust at night
- Excess tearing
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
There are three approaches to restoring the eyes’ moisture
- Minimize drying
Avoid dry situations, such as an overheated room, wind, and smoke Outdoors, wear wraparound glasses to reduce the drying effect of wind (please note that in some states it is illegal to drive in these glasses because they are thought to block peripheral vision).
- Add lubrication
Use eye drops to add moisture directly to your eyes, or if wearing contact lenses, use rewetting drops.
Use a humidifier or place a pan of water on the radiator to add moisture to the air.
- Conserve your own tears
Your eye doctor may choose to temporarily or permanently close the canals that drain tears from your eye to your nose.
If the eyes are red, itchy, and watery-then your eyes and eyelids may even be inflamed.
Susceptible individuals have an exaggerated reaction to certain airborne substances, such as pollen, ragweed, grass, mold, and animal hair. Whenever these people come in contact with allergens, their immune system reacts, and may cause red, itchy eyes.
Some people reduce exposure by staying indoors when pollen and mold counts are high; they also may invest in special air filters.
Sometimes it seems that your eyes tear constantly, yet you have no known allergies, no cold, and no overwhelming concerns. You have watery eyes.
Watery eyes are caused either by excessive tear production or by improper drainage of the tear ducts due to a blockage, including scarring caused by chronic sinusitis or an injury to the nose.
You should visit an eye doctor, who may begin by probing and irrigating your tear ducts to remove any blockages. If the problem is excess tearing, your doctor may recommend eye drops that contain an antihistamine.
You will know if your eyelids are irritated-sticky secretions form around your eyelids while you sleep. Your lids are crusted and reddened. When you blink you feel as though there is sand in your eyes. Fortunately, while it is uncomfortable and unsightly, eyelid irritation is rarely threatening to your health.
Inflammation of the eyelids, also known as blepharitis, can occur when excess oil is produced by the glands near the eyelashes. Often, people with blepharitis have a history of recurrent sties or conjunctivitis.
First contact your eye doctor, who may recommend that you clean your eyelids carefully with diluted baby shampoo. Your eye doctor may also prescribe an antibiotic ointment or eye drops.
The air around us is full of objects that are too small to capture your attention ordinarily-but too large for your normal tear production to simply wash away. If these objects come in contact with your eye, you’ll notice. A foreign object could be a piece of dust, pollen, grit or something larger-and more serious; an irritant could be chlorine from a swimming pool.
Remove superficial particles, such as pollen, dust, or chlorinated water, simply flush your eye. However, you should never touch an embedded particle yourself. If flushing does not work, seek immediate medical advice and observe some basic first aid rules until you get to a doctor.
Pink eye is aptly named the primary symptom is that the white of the eye becomes pink or red. You may also have some yellowish discharge that forms a crust during the night.
Also known as conjunctivitis, pink eye is an inflammation of the transparent membrane that lines the eyelids and eye. Generally caused by a bacterial or viral infection, it is extremely contagious.
If the infection is bacterial, your eye doctor may prescribe antibiotic drops. Otherwise, your doctor may recommend that you soothe your eyes with a warm compress and artificial tears.
A sty usually develops gradually, forming a red, painful bump at the edge of your eyelid. The bump fills with pus and eventually bursts, relieving the pressure and the pain.
A sty is a bacterial infection near the root of an eyelash. Typically, the bacteria that infect one hair follicle spread and infect others.
You should never squeeze a sty. Applying a warm compress for about 10 minutes, four times a day will help relieve the pain. And if the sty is particularly stubborn, your doctor may prescribe a topical antibiotic to minimize the infection.