The Common Eye Conditions We Don’t Talk About
When we talk about eye health, we usually refer to vision and age-related problems like glaucoma and cataracts. These are important topics but they aren’t the only conditions that may affect overall comfort. Most of us have experienced unexpected eye irritation that lasts from a few hours to a few days. Itching, watering, and redness are common symptoms that may indicate the need for a quick visit to the eye doctor. Here are some of the conditions that may cause discomfort.
The conjunctiva is the mucous membrane that covers the inside of the eyelids and the front of the eye. This membrane may become irritated by a virus or bacteria, leading to uncomfortable symptoms like redness, itching, tearing, and a discharge from the affected eye. This inflammation or infection is highly contagious so it may spread from one eye to the other via the hands. It can also be spread to other people so needs to be addressed quickly. Most people don’t know this condition as conjunctivitis; they know it as pink eye. Symptoms may improve with artificial tears and cool compresses. However, some patients need antibiotic eye drops to fully eliminate the infection.
We don’t often hear about sties, the bumps that can develop on the eyelid. A stye is somewhat like a pimple; it is a bump that grows when oil accumulates within a follicle. Pimples form when pores on the skin get inflamed. Sties form when an eyelash follicle gets clogged. In addition to a visible and palpable bump, a stye can cause excessive tearing, crustiness, and a gritty feeling in the eye. A stye may resolve with home care that includes warm compresses to break up accumulated oil and eye drops to soothe the gritty sensation. However, if the stye worsens, an antibiotic ointment may be prescribed.
The cornea is the clear tissue that covers the structures at the front of the eye, protecting them from damage. This covering can be scratched if debris enters the eye. It doesn’t take a lot to scratch the cornea. A small particle of sand, dust, or other material can do it. The scratch may occur when the eyelid closes over the particle, moving it across the front of the eye. If the eye is rubbed, the scratch may be worse. A corneal abrasion can cause noticeable pain, redness, excessive tearing, and a gritty or foreign body sensation. To help the scratch heal, the eye should be gently flushed with water or artificial tears and then left closed for a little while. If the inflammation does not improve with these steps, an examination should be scheduled. An eye doctor may prescribe antibiotic drops to prevent infection from the scratch.