Common Eye Conditions
The conjunctiva is a clear membrane that is the tough, leathery outer coat of the eye. The white of the eye actually lies behind the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva has many small blood vessels and serves to lubricate and protect the eye while the eye moves in its socket.
When the conjunctiva becomes inflamed, this is called conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis can have many causes, such as bacteria (as in “pink eye”), viruses, chemicals, allergies, and more. In many cases it is difficult to determine the primary cause for the inflammation. One of the most common is bacterial conjunctivitis.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is associated with swelling of the lid and a yellowish discharge. Sometimes it causes the eye to itch and a mattering of the eyelids, particularly upon waking. The conjunctiva appears red and sometimes thickened. Often both eyes are involved.
The bacteria most commonly at fault are the Staphylococcus, the Streptococcus, and H. Influenza. This disease is very contagious, and can be easily transmitted by rubbing the eye and then infecting household items, such as towels or handkerchiefs. It is common that entire families become infected.
Conjunctivitis can be directly cured with treatment. Usually antibiotic drops and compresses ease the discomfort and clear up the infection in just a few days. In a few cases, the inflammation does not respond well to the initial treatment with eye drops. In those rare cases a second visit to the office should be made and other measures undertaken. In severe infection, oral antibiotics are necessary. Covering the eye is not a good idea because a cover provides protection for the germs causing the infection. If left untreated, conjunctivitis can create serious complications, such as infections in the cornea, lids, and tear ducts.
Certain precautions can be taken to avoid the disease and stop its spread. Careful washing of the hands, the use of clean handkerchiefs, and avoiding contagious individuals are all helpful. Little children frequently get conjunctivitis because of their poor hygiene.
Conjunctivochalasis is a common ocular surface condition consisting of excess folds of the conjunctiva located between the globe of the eye and the eyelid. Symptoms of Conjunctivochalasis range from dry eyes, epiphora, as well as irritation and pain. Other symptoms include a foreign body sensation, subconjunctival hemorrhage and ulceration. These symptoms can be aggravated by excessive blinking.
Conjunctivochalasis is caused by a thinning and stretching of the conjunctiva and is usually in both eyes.
Dry eye occurs when the eyes aren’t sufficiently moisturized, leading to blurred vision, variable vision, itching, redness and pain from dry spots on the surface of the eye. The eyes may become dry and irritated because the tear gland doesn’t produce enough tears, or because the tears themselves have a chemical imbalance.
People usually begin experiencing dry eye symptoms as they age, but the condition can also result from the environment, certain medications, medical conditions or injuries.
Dry eye is not only painful, it can also damage the eye’s tissues and impair vision. Fortunately, many treatment options are available.
Non-surgical treatments for dry eye include use of artificial tears or moisturizing ointment, increasing water consumption, taking oral supplements specifically for dry eyes, and increasing humidity at home or work. If these methods fail, small punctal plugs may be inserted in the corners of the eyes to limit tear drainage, or the drainage tubes in the eyes may be surgically closed. Eyelid surgery is also a solution if an eyelid condition is causing your dry eyes.
Flashes and Floaters
Flashes and floaters are symptoms of the eye that commonly occur as a result of age-related changes to the vitreous gel. When we are born, the vitreous is firmly attached to the retina and is a thick, firm substance without much movement. But as we age, the vitreous becomes thinner and more watery, and tissue debris that was once secure in the firm gel can now move around inside the eye, casting shadows on the retina.
Flashes in vision occur as a result of traction on the retina in the back of the eye, and cause patients to see flashing lights or lightning streaks. Floaters occur when fibers move across the vitreous and into your field of vision, causing patients to see specks, strands, webs or other shapes as the fibers cast shadows on the retina. These spots are most visible when looking at a plain, light background.
Although flashes and floaters are common, especially as we age, it is important to see your doctor if you experience them, as they may indicate a retinal tear or hole. Your doctor can distinguish between harmless flashes and floaters, and those that may require treatment for an underlying condition. Most flashes and floaters will become less noticeable with time. Although these floaters are harmless, it is important to continue to receive regular eye exams to ensure that any permanent changes to your vision do not occur.