Commonly called “pink eye,” eye infections can be caused by bacterias, viruses, or allergies.
Bacterial eye infections can be the result of overgrowth of normal skin bacteria or contamination of the eye from an external source. It is characterized by redness and a white or yellowish discharge that may build up along the eyelashes. With this condition, eyelids have a tendency to stick together and there is rarely any pain or discomfort. The condition is often contagious so the eyes must be kept clean while taking special care that towels and face cloths are separate from those that others may use. Most bacterial infections are treated with antibiotic drops. If contact lenses are worn, they must be discontinued during the healing stage.
Viral eye infections may be from direct infection of the eye from an outside source, or may be secondary to upper respiratory infections. Viral infections cause redness, tearing, and irritation. In some cases vision can be temporarily reduced. Medications are not effective to kill the virus, however medications can be used to shorten the course of the infection and decrease symptoms. A virus usually runs a 10-14 day course before resolution. They can be very contagious and extra caution should be exercised to prevent spread of the disease.
Allergic conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the tissue covering the white part of the eye resulting from an allergic response. Symptoms of itching, tearing, and swelling may range from slight to severe depending on the degree of allergic response. Depending on the severity of this condition treatment may include anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, or decongestant drops.
Dry eye is a chronic condition in which the body does not produce enough quality tears to sufficiently lubricate the eye. Without tear lubrication, the eyes may become irritated, causing burning, itchiness and excessive watering. Patients with severe cases of dry eyes may actually experience vision impairments caused by damage to the surface of the eye. Fortunately, dry eye treatments are available to help the eye produce more of its own natural tears and also manage inflammation.
Diabetes is one of the top causes of blindness, afflicting millions of Americans. Patients with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing eye diseases that can lead to vision loss and blindness. It is important for diabetic patients to have their eyes examined at least once a year. Early Detection of this eye disease is key and can help prevent permanent damage. The risk of developing eye problems can be reduced through regular eye exams and by keeping blood sugar levels under control through a healthy diet and regular exercise. Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease of the retina and may cause a loss of vision if not diagnosed and treated early. This eye disease can progress without any symptoms, and the disease can go undetected. It is important to have routine eye exams to check for diabetic retinopathy.
Macular degeneration is a common eye condition among people age 50 and older. Macular degeneration is an incurable eye disease affecting more than 10 million Americans. It is the leading cause of vision loss in those aged 55 or older in the U.S. Macular degeneration is the degeneration of the macula, the part of the eye that provides sharp, central vision needed for seeing objects clearly. There are two forms of macular degeneration: wet and dry. The dry form is more common than the wet form, and the wet form leads to more serious vision loss. The risk of developing macular degeneration increases with age, family history, vascular status, active smokers, lifetime sun exposure, and even blue light exposure. Knowing the signs and symptoms of this disease is important, as early detection is key to stopping further damage. Regular eye exams are highly recommended to detect macular degeneration early and prevent permanent vision loss.
Glaucoma is a disease in which the optic nerve and its associated retinal nerve fibers are affected. It is often associated with a pressure in the eye that is higher than what that particular eye can tolerate.
High eye pressures can occur when the body produces too much fluid (aqueous humor) inside the eye or when normal drainage of the fluid does not filter out of the eye adequately. A higher than normal eye pressure causes damage to the very sensitive optic nerve and nerve fibers of the retina. Loss of sight may occur gradually (or in rare cases, suddenly) if glaucoma is not controlled.
In the more common chronic form of glaucoma, symptoms are rare and loss of sight occurs so gradually that the patient is not aware of any changes. Acute glaucoma is more rare and symptoms include severe pain, headache, and nausea.
Early diagnosis and treatment is imperative. With an early diagnosis of glaucoma, treatment usually keeps it from getting worse. Regular eye exams are necessary to measure intra-ocular eye pressure, evaluate the integrity of the optic nerve, and study a patient’s peripheral field of vision. People with a family history of glaucoma or other factors indicating predisposition to this disease should be especially cautious.