BY KEITH BIGGS, OD
There is a lot of information about eye problems such as cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetes. People with diabetes are encouraged to have annual exams to screen for diabetic retinopathy. What we may not know about are the other eye problems which affect a high percentage of people. What about the bump on the eyelid? What about red, irritated eyes? Why does my eye twitch? What are the causes? Should we be concerned?
Blepharitis: This condition causes inflammation of the eyelid. The lids can become “crusty,” red and irritated. Blepharitis may be caused by bacteria, mites, eczema, acne rosacea, dry eye and even makeup. Prescription eye scrubs, sprays, and drops are often used to treat this problem. Although uncomfortable, blepharitis is usually not contagious and generally does not cause any permanent damage. Statistics show that 37-47% of the population has blepharitis.
Eye Allergies: Most people who suffer from allergies develop eye symptoms which can include itchy, red, tearing, and swollen eyes. Severe eye allergies can leave eyes vulnerable to infections, so talk with your doctor if you are experiencing prolonged or severe symptoms. Sometimes medications taken for the allergies can lead to a dry eye problem as discussed below.
Dry Eye: Hormonal changes, medications, some diseases, contacts, and even the weather can cause dry eye conditions. If this is a transient problem, OTC artificial tears may help. More often, dry eye symptoms occur because you may not be making the right quantity or quality of tears. As there are multiple treatment plans, an eye care provider should be contacted.
Floaters: Those irritating black spots that appear and float around your line of vision occur when small bits of material known as vitreous naturally break away. While floaters are common and harmless at times, they could be a symptom of an impending retinal emergency if they are accompanied by flashes or if someone has a lot of them. Approximately 1% of flashes and floaters lead to retinal detachments, but no one should ignore the symptoms and take a chance.
Light Sensitivity: Some people are naturally more sensitive to light than others, but sudden light sensitivity may occur as a result of eye conditions or illnesses associated with viruses or chronic migraine conditions. Sunglasses should be worn by everyone to help reduce the light sensitivity when outside. If there is a sudden onset of this problem, an eye doctor should be consulted to determine the underlying problem.
Pink Eye: The dreaded and highly contagious pink eye is a symptom of conjunctivitis, and it is one of the most common eye problems which affect children. Treatment for pink eye includes medicated drops and warm compresses and/or lubricating drops to make the eyes more comfortable. Causes of pink eye include viruses, bacteria, allergies, and some irritants such as smoke, pool chlorine and more. Pink eye should be treated immediately as it can be a vision-threatening infection. Pink eye can even affect new born babies.
Styes and Chalazions: Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between a stye and a chalazion. A stye is very painful. It often appears at the eyelid’s edge, usually caused by an infected eyelash root. It often swells, sometimes affecting the entire eyelid. A chalazion is not usually painful. It is a bump that usually develops farther back on the eyelid than a stye. It is caused by a clogged oil gland. Rarely does it make the entire eyelid swell. Both of these problems should be treated by an eye care professional.
Twitching: Twitching is often caused by eyestrain, but twitching around the eye can also occur from too much caffeine, dry eyes or even allergies. Eye twitches are usually brief and tend to disappear without treatment, but if you experience prolonged twitches, you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor.
Vision Problems: The most common of all eye problems are vision problems which need to be corrected with eyeglasses or prescription contacts. Children’s vision problems are often not caught until grades begin to fall or they begin to complain about not being able to “see the board.” Often children complain of headaches, and they should always be evaluated by an eye care professional. Approximately 5-10% of preschoolers and 25% of school-age children have vision problems. Recommended ages for child exams are six months, three years, and 5-6-year-olds, just before kindergarten.
Summit Eye Care diagnoses and treats all of the problems listed above on a daily basis, along with the more severe diagnoses of cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and much more.
If you do not have an eye care provider, we welcome you to call for an appointment: 336-765-0960.