Other Eye Conditions

Allergies

Eye Allergies – Causes & Symptoms

Thirty to 50 percent of Americans have allergies; about 75 percent of these allergy symptoms affect the eyes.  Many allergens are in the air such as dust, mold, pollen, and pet dander.  When they come in contact with the eyes many experience allergy symptoms including red, swollen, or itchy eyes.  Some may also feel tired and have trouble sleeping.  Eye allergies can also come from certain foods, bee stings, cosmetics, and drugs.

Treatments

The best course of action is to avoid whatever it is that is causing your eye allergy.  Keep your home dust and dander free and use the air conditioner when a lot of pollen is in the air.  Outside, wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes from allergens.  When these measures are not sufficient over the counter medications are available along with prescription allergy medicine if something stronger is required.  If you wear contacts and your eyes are irritated due to allergies, talk to your doctor about eye drops that can relieve your symptoms and keep your contact lenses clean.  Disposable contact lenses may also be a good choice because deposits do not have time to build up and cause discomfort.

Dry Eye

If your eyes are continually dry and you’re experiencing a scratching and burning sensation, you may have dry eye syndrome.  This syndrome is caused by a lack of lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye.  The medical term, keratitis sicca, means a decreased quality or quantity of tears.  With dry eye syndrome, your eyes are not producing enough tears, or the chemical composition of the tears is causing them to evaporate too quickly.

Causes

There are several causes of dry eye syndrome.  It may be caused by the natural aging process, a side effect of a medication you are taking, or because you live in a windy, dry, and dusty area.  Also, air conditioning or a dry heating system in your home or office can dry out your eyes.  Sometimes, staring at a computer screen all day can cause insufficient blinking which can be another potential cause.  Other contributing factors could include, wearing contact lenses, hormone fluctuations in women, and smoking.  Your eye doctor can help you determine the cause along with ways to manage the symptoms.

Treatments

Your doctor may prescribe eye drops that alleviate the dryness and scratchy feeling.  Another possible solution is Lacrisert, a very small insert filled with a lubricant that is placed just inside the lower eyelid.  It continuously lubricates the eye throughout the day.  Another procedure your doctor can perform painlessly during your visit is temporary or permanent silicone plugs that are inserted into the drainage ducts of your eyelids.  The plugs keep tears on your eye and prevent them from draining away too quickly.  If the cause of your dry eyes is the climate, you will need to wear sunglasses to reduce your exposure to the elements.  Also, placing an air cleaner and humidifier indoors will help filter out dust and add moisture to the too dry air.  You and your doctor may also talk about other easy things that you can do to help alleviate the problem, such as drinking more water and eating more cold-water fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids.

Corneal Transplant

A cornea transplant replaces damaged tissue on the eye’s clear surface.  A graft, used from healthy corneal tissue donated from an eye bank, replaces corneal tissue that has been damaged due to disease or eye injury.  An unhealthy cornea affects your vision distorting light and causing glare and blurred vision.  A transplant may become necessary to restore your functional vision.  Corneal transplants are performed in order to protect the inner eye, improve vision, and relieve pain.  You and your doctor should discuss the pros and cons, along with alternatives when determining whether cornea transplant is the right procedure for correcting your functional vision.

Normally, the transplants are performed on an outpatient basis.  Anesthesia is used to relax the muscles in the eye and drops are used to numb the eye.  A round section of the cornea is removed and replaced with the donor tissue.  A plastic shield is placed over the eye for protection.  The surgery takes about one to two hours to complete.

The recovery time can be up to a year or longer.  At first your vision will be blurry and the site of the transplant will be swollen.  As your vision improves you will be able to return to normal activities.  Most are able to return to work three to seven days after the surgery.  Steroid eye drops will be prescribed and eye protection should be worn at all times.  Stitches are removed three to 17 months after surgery.

Astigmatism

Although astigmatism is the most common vision problem, most people have no idea what it actually is.  An irregularly shaped cornea usually causes it, and most of the time can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery such as Lasik.  Small amounts of astigmatism may not have any symptoms.  However, if left untreated it can give you headaches, eyestrain, or blurred vision at all distances.  Usually astigmatism is hereditary, but it can also be a result of an eye injury or eye surgery.

Nearsighted

About one-third of the population is nearsighted.  Nearsighted people are able to see things up close but have difficulty seeing clearly at a distance.  It’s very common to have headaches or eyestrain when you are nearsighted.  It is usually only mildly debilitating and can be treated with eyeglasses, contact lenses or eye surgery such as Lasik.

Farsighted

About a fourth of the population is farsighted.  They can see things in the distance very well, but have difficulty focusing on things that are up close.  Eyestrain, headaches, and fatigue are common problems for people that are farsighted when working with at close range.  It can easily be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or surgery such as Lasik.  Glasses or contacts may only be needed when reading or doing other close-up work.