Are you wondering why your eye is gritty and tearing up all the time? Maybe you're concerned about your eyes being red and painful. We can help!
Below are some common eye conditions. If you feel you have symptoms of any of them, you should contact our office for an appointment. Click any of them for more information!
ALLERGIES (Back To Top)
Allergies are caused by the same irritants as hay fever, runny nose, coughing, and sneezing, eye allergies commonly affect those who suffer from other allergy symptoms. Not only do eye allergies cause discomfort, but they can also interfere with daily activities.
Medically referred to as allergic conjunctivitis, individuals who are predisposed to allergic reaction experience eye allergies when they come into contact with allergens (substances which prove harmless to others, like pollen, mold, dust, and pet dander). In addition to these allergens, some eye allergy sufferers also experience reactions to perfumes, smoke, cosmetics, insect bites/stings, foods, and the preservatives found in eye drops.
When an allergy sufferer's eyes come into contact with an allergen, his or her immune system reacts, and cells known as mast cells release histamine to try to combat the allergen. Histamine causes the symptoms associated with eye allergies.
Symptoms of Eye Allergies
When mast cells in the eyes release histamine to fight off allergens, the eye lids, conjunctiva (membrane covering the underside of the eyelid), and sclera (white of the eye) become irritated. This leads to swelling, redness, watering, burning, and itching. Severe eye allergies can also cause light sensitivity. Though it appears similar, unlike pink eye (bacterial or viral conjunctivitis), allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious.
Who Is at Risk For Allergies?
Eye allergies affect up to 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children. While anyone can be born with or develop allergies, people whose parents suffer from allergies are more likely to have allergies.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Allergies
If you suffer from eye allergy symptoms, we can provide you with a proper diagnosis, ruling out bacterial or viral conjunctivitis. Often over the counter eye drops formulated for allergy relief are often sufficient treatment. If they do not provide enough relief, we can recommend or prescribe other methods of treatment such as decongestants, oral antihistamines, eye drops with antihistamine and mast stabilizer, corticosteroids, or immune therapy shots.
Eye Allergy Prevention
The best way to prevent eye allergies is to avoid eye allergens. Keep windows closed and stay indoors as much as possible during allergy season, replace air conditioning filters with high quality filters that trap allergens, reduce exposure to animals, wash bedding in hot water to remove allergens, and reduce humidity in the home to prevent mold growth.
ASTIGMATISM (Back To Top)
The clear front area of the eye is called the cornea, which is important for refracting light rays to direct them onto the retinal surface. Light rays pass through the cornea onto the lens. The lens is flexible, changing shape to further focus the light rays and ensure that they hit the retina. Light must bend at a particular angle to result in clear, focused vision. Any abnormalities in eye structure may cause light to be improperly focused onto the retina, preventing visual sensory cells from processing the images.
Astigmatism occurs when either the cornea or the lens is abnormally curved. It is important to note that nearly everyone has some degree of astigmatism, as ocular structures are rarely perfectly shaped. When the cornea or lens has particularly pronounced curvature, however, light rays fail to focus onto the retina. This leads to blurry vision. Unlike farsightedness or nearsightedness, astigmatism causes blurred vision at any distance. Many people have astigmatism as well as farsightedness or nearsightedness.
Diagnosis of Astigmatism
Our comprehensive optometry exam checks your eye anatomy and vision for signs of astigmatism. Tests of visual acuity typically reveal some inability to clearly read letters on a distance chart. We may also use a keratometer, a tool that measures the curvature of your cornea. By shining a bright light into your cornea and measuring its reflection, the eye doctor can assess the curvature of your cornea. We may also place different lenses in front of your eyes to determine if you have a refractive error and to what extent.
Treatments for Astigmatism
Most commonly, treatment for astigmatism consists of prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses. An alternate treatment is orthokeratology, in which the eye doctor provides a series of rigid contact lenses for you to wear for relatively short periods of time. These lenses reshape your cornea, allowing you to have clear vision. Although orthokeratology does not permanently change the shape of your cornea, it may help you go without glasses or contact lenses for everyday activities. Surgery is another option for those who want a more permanent solution.
Astigmatism is very common and relatively easy to treat. If you experience any blurriness or change in vision, consult with our office immediately to schedule an optometric exam.
BINOCULAR VISION (Back To Top)
The human visual system is a complex network including the eye, ocular nerves, and key brain areas that process visual information. Under most circumstances, we use information from both eyes to create a single visual image. This ability to converge information from both eyes is called binocular vision. In some cases, the eyes fail to seamlessly meld visual information into a coherent image. We can assess vision to determine if there are problems with binocular vision that require further care.
Unlike some other animals, humans’ eyes are both set on the front of the face, permitting binocular vision. Each eye has a field of view, which is the area that you can see when you close one eye. The center of the eyes’ fields of view overlap with one another, although visual information in the periphery can only be detected by one eye. This information is transmitted to an area of the brain in the back of the head, which synthesizes the overlapping visual information to make a single coordinated image.
Binocular Vision and Depth Perception
One of the reasons that binocular vision is so important is that it allows us to perceive depth and relationships between objects. Each eye sees slightly different spatial information and transmits these differences to the brain. The brain then uses the discrepancies between the two eyes to judge distance and depth. The result is the ability to see a 3-D image and distinguish the relationships between objects. Depth perception is technically called stereopsis or stereoscopic vision.
Causes of Binocular Vision Problems
If the eyes can no longer maintain their correct position or focus on the same object, the result is problems with binocular vision. In cases of strabismus, or cross-eye, the eyes are not properly aligned, with one is drifting from its normal position. Strabismus causes the brain to have difficulty synthesizing visual images from each eye, resulting in impaired binocular vision and depth perception. Amblyopia, or lazy eye, is another condition that causes binocular vision problems. Amblyopia occurs when the brain ignores input from one eye, affecting depth perception and other visual abilities.
Fortunately, most problems with binocular vision are easily treated through eyeglasses, vision therapy, or surgery. Receiving a thorough annual optometry exam -- especially during childhood when the visual system continues to develop -- is essential to detect these eye problems. We can recommend treatment options that correct or manage problems with binocular vision.
BLEPHARITIS (Back To Top)
Stinging, irritated eyes, and blurred vision may indicate nothing more than a case of blepharitis -- an unpleasant but, in most cases, relatively harmless condition. Blepharitis is a chronic eyelid inflammation caused by a variety of irritants and/or the inability to maintain proper eye lubrication. In some cases, bacterial infection may be involved. If you suffer from this annoying problem, don't feel obliged to live with it -- make an appointment to discover the cause of your blepharitis and get advice on how to relieve yourself of it.
Blepharitis may take one of two forms, anterior (toward the front of the eyelid, where the eyelashes begin) and posterior (on the inner edge of the lid). You may even have both types of blepharitis at the same time. Anterior blepharitis often occurs when dandruff flakes, allergens, or bacteria irritate the eyelid and eyelashes. Posterior blepharitis is the result of a failure on the part of tiny glands within the eyelid, known as meibomian glands, to produce sufficient lubrication between the eyelid and the cornea of the eye.
Typical symptoms of blepharitis include the formation of crusts along the eyelids, eye pain, redness, oozing, abnormal tear formation, irregularities in the arrangement of your eyelashes, and a tendency for the eyelids to stick together.
Getting Relief from Blepharitis
The good news is that most cases of blepharitis are more annoying than dangerous. While extreme cases may require medical treatment to prevent possible damage to the cornea, we can recommend several simple home care practices you can adopt to keep this recurring problem at bay. These may include warm compresses, commercial eyelid cleansers, anti-dandruff shampoos, and artificial tears.
You may also be advised to stop wearing contact lenses or using eyeliner and eye shadow, since these practices can make people more prone to blepharitis. (Since blepharitis attacks tend to come and go, you may want to keep a pair of eyeglasses handy so you can continue to see clearly while treating the condition.) Even a massage of the outer eyelids can help relieve the condition.
No one enjoys the prospect of a chronic eye condition, but once you learn how to control your blepharitis instead of simply suffering with it, you will feel better both physically and emotionally. Contact our office for personal help and advice on this common yet irritating problem.
CATARACTS (Back To Top)
Many body parts begin to change as you age, and your eyes are no exception. One of the most common age-related eye changes is the development of cataracts. Although cataracts do not occur exclusively in older adults, they affect approximately half of all Americans by age 80.
What Are Cataracts?
Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes clouded. The lens is a flexible, clear structure of the eye that changes shape to reflect light onto the retina. This allows your eye to focus light rays, transforming visual signals into a clear, sharp image.
As you get older, the tissue forming the lens grows less flexible, thicker, and less transparent. Slight degeneration of the tissue causes cloudy areas to form. As light passes through the lens, these cloudy areas scatter the rays and cause visual distortions. Many people report that having cataracts is like looking through a foggy windshield, as everything looks clouded. This can cause difficulties when driving, reading, and performing other everyday activities.
Age-related cataracts are the most common, but other types may also develop. Cataracts are associated with eye injuries, exposure to radiation, smoking, diabetes, steroid use, and surgery for other eye conditions. Cataracts can also be congenital, causing some babies to be born with cataracts.
Diagnosis of Cataracts
Checking for cataracts is a routine part of your annual vision exam. We will test your visual acuity using an eye chart to determine if you have any visual impairment. We may also use a bright light to view your cornea, lens, and iris to note any changes to their anatomy. Small areas of clouding are visible when performing this test. We may also dilate your eyes and examine your lens for signs of cataracts.
Treatment For Cataracts
In their early stages, cataracts may cause only minor visual impairment. Using brighter lights for reading or getting an anti-glare coating on your glasses for night driving may be adequate treatments in the early stages. As cataracts grow, however, they can severely impair vision. The doctor may recommend cataract surgery, in which the clouded lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens. Like all surgeries, cataract surgery carries some risk of infection or bleeding; however, it is considered a very safe surgery that is routinely performed worldwide.
Clouded vision due to cataracts can be very impairing, so it is important to monitor your eye health. An annual optometry exam will detect changes to your lens that may be early indicators of cataract development.
CHALAZIA AND STYES (Back To Top)
A chalazion is the medical term for a slowly developing lump on the eyelid that occurs due to an oil gland blockage. At first, the eyelid may appear to be red, tender and swollen. After several days, the chalazion will form on the eyelid, appearing as a slow growing lump. While it is initially painless and nearly impossible to detect, with steady growth, the chalazion may reach the size of pea. Chalazia are most common in adults between the ages of 30 to 50, although individuals of all ages, including children, can develop a chalazion.
Initially, chalazia can be difficult to diagnose as they are often confused with styes. A stye is also a red, swollen lump along the eyelid. However, styes are located on the edge of the eyelid or inside the eyelid’s immediate surface. They are more painful than a chalazion and typically occur closer to the eyelid’s surface. A stye is caused by an infection of the oil gland within the eyelid; a chalazion, in contrast, is caused by a blockage in the actual oil gland.
Causes and Risk Factors of Chalazia / Styes
Glands within the eyelids known as the meibomian glands naturally produce oil. Should a blockage within these glands occur, oil will build up inside the gland and eventually thicken, forming a lump known as a chalazion. In some cases, the gland may even break open, releasing the oil into the surrounding eyelid tissue, which causes inflammation. In some cases having a stye can also result in a chalazion. Risk factors for chalazion development include conditions associated with excessive oil production, such as seborrhea and acne rosacea. A viral infection, tuberculosis, and chronic blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids and lashes) also increase the risk for developing a chalazion.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Chalazia
In some cases, a chalazion will resolve itself over the course of several weeks without the need for medical intervention. At-home remedies can speed the healing process. For example, our office may recommend the application of a warm compress to the eyelid for 10 to 15 minutes four to six times per day. Warmth from the compress can help soften the hardened oil that is blocking the gland, facilitating the healing process. Light massage on the external area of the eyelid may also help to facilitate drainage. Never attempt to squeeze or drain a chalazion by yourself. If the chalazion does not heal within one month, contact our office for additional medical care.
COLOR BLINDNESS (Back To Top)
Color blindness, also known as color vision deficiency, occurs when an individual cannot distinguish between certain colors like red and green or, less commonly, blue and yellow.
Light-sensitive tissue, the retina, lines the back of the eye and consists of two types of light distinguishing cells: rods and cones. While rods detect or see light and dark, cones are responsible for detecting color and sending the information to the brain for processing. Your eye has three types of cones; one for perceiving red, another for blue, and third for green. In a healthy eye, the cones work together to facilitate your ability to see a broad range of colors. When one or more type of cone functions abnormally, color deficiency occurs.
Symptoms of Color Blindness
Depending on which cones are affected, the symptoms of color blindness range from mild to severe. Mild color blindness is defined as difficulty distinguishing colors in low light, and severe color blindness can leave someone seeing only a range of grey tones. Symptoms of color blindness include having difficulty seeing colors or their brightness, and the inability to distinguish between different colors. People with color blindness most frequently have a hard time telling the difference between red and green or blue and yellow.
Risk Factors for Color Blindness
Most individuals with color deficiency are born with it. Congenital color blindness is usually inherited as a genetic trait passed down from mother to son. Males are much more likely than females to inherit color deficiency, experiencing color blindness from birth.
Color blindness, however, can develop as the result of disease, medical conditions, trauma, or as a side effect of medication. Conditions that may lead to color blindness include macular degeneration, glaucoma, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, leukemia, sickle cell anemia, and alcoholism. Color blindness which develops later in life as the result of a condition is known as acquired color deficiency.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Color Blindness
We can diagnose color blindness with a simple test. The patient is shown diagrams comprised of differently colored dots. Color blind individuals will not be able to distinguish shapes or numbers hidden among the dots in a different color.
While there is no cure for congenital color blindness, special lenses for glasses or contacts have been developed to help color deficient individuals distinguish between colors. Acquired color blindness can sometimes be treated by addressing the underlying cause.
CONJUNCTIVITIS (Back To Top)
Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is a common eye problem that can afflict children and adults alike. It is highly contagious and spreads quickly in environments like classrooms or offices filled with multiple people in close proximity to one another. The good news is that conjunctivitis is easily treated and can be prevented.
Conjunctivitis gets the nickname pink eye because it gives the affected eye a shade of pink. Symptoms of pink eye vary depending on which of three types of pink eye you have contracted. One or both eyes can be affected by these symptoms.
Viral conjunctivitis produces watery and itchy eyes and causes sensitivity to light. It can be spread through coughing and sneezing.
Bacterial conjunctivitis creates a yellow-green discharge in the corner of the eye. It can cause your eyelids to stick together while you are sleeping. This type of pink eye is spread through direct contact with infected hands or objects.
Allergic conjunctivitis leads to watery, burning and itchy eyes. Other associated symptoms include a runny nose, stuffiness, and light sensitivity. Both eyes are affected by it, but this form of pink eye is not contagious.
Causes of Conjunctivitis
Causes behind a case of conjunctivitis vary based on which type you have contracted. Some types of conjunctivitis are more dangerous to the long-term health of your eyes than others.
Viral conjunctivitis is caused by a virus. It is a contagious form of pink eye, but typically clears up on its own within a few days. Allergic conjunctivitis is usually connected with allergies, so it typically flares up when exposed to seasonal irritants like pollen or everyday irritants like dust or pet dander.
Bacterial conjunctivitis is the most dangerous type of pink eye. It results from a bacterial infection. If left untreated by an eye care professional, the bacteria can cause serious damage to the affected eye.
Treatments for Conjunctivitis
Treatments for conjunctivitis vary based on the type afflicting your eyes. Viral conjunctivitis does not usually require medical treatment. A cold wet washcloth is often enough to relieve symptoms. Allergy medications can be effective in reducing or preventing bouts of allergic conjunctivitis. Bacterial conjunctivitis can only be treated through applying antibiotic eye drops or ointments prescribed by your eye care professional.
CORNEAL ULCERS (Back To Top)
The cornea is present as a clear tissue that is located at the front of the eye. A corneal ulcer occurs when there is a sore in the layer of the cornea. Symptoms of this include redness, drainage, visual disturbances, sensitivity to light, itching and discomfort.
Causes and Effects of Corneal Ulcers
The most common cause of a corneal ulcer is infection. This can occur following damage to the eye. Other possible causes include fungi, eye dryness, a scratch in the eye, an inflammatory disorder, allergic eye disorders, and viruses.
Contact lens wearers are especially prone to corneal ulcers, especially if they wear their contacts while sleeping or while swimming.
Changes in vision may take place after a corneal ulcer has healed. It can also cause long term damage to the vision and even a loss of the eye itself. In some cases a corneal transplant may even be necessary. This is why it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible after noticing any symptoms.
Treatment of Corneal Ulcers
After examination of the eye, our eye care professionals will determine what type of treatment is needed. If the corneal ulcer was caused by bacteria the doctor will likely prescribe a topical antibiotic for the eye. Culture of the eye drainage may be taken for further examination. If the doctor suspects a fungal infection topical anti-fungal medication may be needed. If the corneal ulcer is severe, oral agents may also be prescribed.
Prevention of Corneal Ulcers
The best way to avoid suffering from a corneal ulcer is protection of the eye. When doing any type of work or activity that would put yourself at risk for damage to the eye you should wear some type of mask, safety glasses, or goggles. If you are prone to dry eyes you can administer lubricating eye drops as needed. Contact lens wearers need to take proper care of the lenses in cleaning them and storing them. Contact lenses should never be worn while sleeping or swimming. Most importantly, proper hand washing is a must to avoid transmitting bacteria to the eye. This is the first line of defense in protecting your health.
DETACHED RETINA (Back To Top)
Seeing a spot or a flash of light in your field of vision is more than an inconvenience. It could be the first signs of a detached retina. A retina becomes detached when separated from underlying layers of support tissue. Detached retinas will lead to a permanent loss of vision if they are not quickly corrected.
Symptoms of a Detached Retina
Once the retina pulls away from surrounding supportive tissue, spots, floaters, and flashes of light start appearing. Additional symptoms crop up as detachment worsens, including blurry vision or shadows descending over the eye. These symptoms can either occur gradually or suddenly depending on the speed of detachment.
No pain is associated with these symptoms. If they occur, it is important to contact us immediately. We can diagnose if you are suffering from a detached retina and take steps to help you regain your vision before it becomes permanently lost.
Causes of a Detached Retina
Eye or facial injuries are common causes for detached retinas. Athletes who get struck in the face or poked in the eye are usually most at risk for this method of retinal detachment.
Detached retinas can also result in cases of extreme nearsightedness. Nearsighted people have longer eyeballs and thinner retinas that are more prone to tearing or detaching. Sometimes, fluid movement or new blood vessels growing under the retina can also pull it away from surrounding tissue.
Cataract surgery, eye tumors, and diseases, such diabetes and sickle cell disease, can all lead to detached retinas. In extremely rare cases, retinal detachment can develop as a complication following LASIK surgery.
Treatments for a Detached Retina
Surgery is the only option for repairing a detached retina. It must receive immediate attention from an ophthalmologist who has received training to perform this surgery. Surgical reattachment doesn't always work. Success depends on the location, cause, and extent of the detachment.
Surgical options for a detachment include:
Scleral Buckling Surgery – a small silicone or plastic band is attached to the outside of the eye. It compresses the eye inward and lets it reattach to the interior wall of the eye.
Vitrectomy – clear fluid is removed from the posterior chamber of the eye and replaced with clear silicone oil to push the retina back onto the supporting tissue.
Pneumatic Retinopexy – a small gas bubble is injected into the vitreous body to push the retina back onto the supporting tissue.
DRY EYE (Back To Top)
Dry eye is a condition that occurs when a person's eyes have insufficient tears or poorly made tears to properly lubricate the eyes and the eyelid. Without the natural lubrication and cleansing of tears, a sufferer may experience a feeling of grit or debris in the eyes, blurred vision, tired eyes and sensitivity to light. Their eyes may appear reddened and inflamed. In extreme cases of the condition, chronic dry eye can result in increased eye infections and scarring of the cornea.
Dry Eye is Common
Up to 5% of Americans complain of some form of dry eye. Individuals who wear contact lenses or have undergone LASIK or other types of refractive surgery commonly complain of dry eye. The condition is more common in women and is more common and severe in older persons.
Causes of Dry Eye
Many diseases, disorders of the eye and side effects of medication can cause dry eye. Essentially, dry eye results under conditions in which too few tears are produced or evaporation of tears takes place too quickly. Quality tears are not simply salt water, but are made of three different substances -- mucin, water and oil -- designed to work together in proper proportions. The mucous layer lies just above the eye surface and helps the tear "water" spread evenly across the entire eye surface quickly and with each blink of the eyelid. The oil portion floats above the tear layer and not only helps lubricate blinking, but also actively slows down the rate of evaporation of tears from the eyes. Any interruption in these layers or their proportions can result in dry eye.
Treatment for Dry Eye
The doctor will discuss treatment options with you that depend upon how seriously the problem is affecting your life and if complications are likely to occur. Treatment may consist of adding tears with over-the-counter "tear drops," prescription medication to take by mouth that will increase your tear production and even introducing omega-3 fatty acid nutritional supplements into your diet. Sometimes, surgery can help. One type of surgery -- a temporary or a permanent form -- plugs up the tear ducts so that tears cannot drain back into the body. We also offer a treatment using the iLUX MGD Treatment System.
Ask us how you can best begin treating your dry eye condition.
EYE FLOATERS (Back To Top)
Seeing eye floaters, light flashes or spots before your eyes can appear as specks or strings of black and gray. This generally occurs upon eye movement, but they can also appear when looking at something bright, such as sunlight. They are generally harmless to your field of vision, but larger sized floaters may cast a shadow making it slightly more difficult to see. Experiencing floaters warrants a visit to your eye care professional to make sure that it is not something more serious. If flashes of light or loss of vision are also seen with floaters it could signal something of a more serious nature and requires immediate attention. The aging process is the most common reason for having eye floaters, but other serious conditions, such as retinal detachment, bleeding in the eye area or a retinal tear could also be occurring.
The Causes and Effects of Floaters
The cause of eye floaters is a protein known as collagen. The back of the eye contains a gel-like substance known as vitreous humor. As a person ages fibers decrease in size and collect in this area among the vitreous. The changes that take place cause the spots or floaters. Floaters can occur in all ages, but is most prominent between the ages of 50-75. It also affects people who have undergone cataract surgery or those who are nearsighted, as well as other disorders that occur within the eye.
Treatment of Floaters
There is no real treatment for eye floaters, as it is not necessary. Most people become used to them. For some people treatment is necessary, as it impairs their ability to see. This surgery is generally done by removing the vitreous. This surgery does carry the risk of retinal bleeding or tearing though. Laser surgery is also an option to break up the floaters.
EYE OCCLUSIONS (Back To Top)
An eye occlusion is a blockage in one of the arteries or veins supplying blood to the retina and/or optic nerve. These blockages can cause severe and sudden vision loss. Contact our office immediately if you experience sudden vision loss, and follow up right away with your family doctor. Eye occlusions often signal other serious health problems requiring immediate medical attention.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Eye Occlusions
There are 4 main types of eye occlusions, categorized based on the vessels involved, their location within the eye, and the type of vision loss they cause. Our doctor will perform a complete eye exam to determine the root problem:
Branch Retinal Artery Occlusion or (BRAO) — Characterized by a sudden loss of peripheral vision, and occasionally central vision, from a broken clot or plaque traveling from the carotid (in the neck) artery into the branch retinal artery. Rapid treatment (within 12-24 hours of the onset of symptoms) with glaucoma medicine can help. 80% of patients with a BRAO can recover up to 20/40 in visual acuity.
Branch retinal vein occlusion or (BRVO) — Involves distorted and diminished vision, peripheral vision loss, and blind spots in one eye. This type of occlusion usually occurs in people with diabetes or high blood pressure. Your eye care professional will diagnose the condition based on retinal bleeding along one of the retinal veins, which is detected during a fluorescein angiogram test. Laser and pharmaceutical treatments can help some patients recover a degree of their lost vision.
Central retinal artery occlusion or (CRAO) — Manifests as painless, yet extensive and sudden vision loss in one eye and can point toward serious narrowing of the carotid artery or complications of diabetes. Immediate, full medical and eye exams are necessary to address the root cause. Vision loss is often permanent, with only a few therapies offering limited success at restoring some vision. Treatments must be implemented within a very short time frame after the onset of symptoms to have a chance of success.
Central retinal vein occlusion or (CRVO) — Diabetes and high blood pressure are risk factors for CRVO, which can cause mild to severe vision loss. Laser and pharmaceutical treatments can stop the damage and prevent worsening vision if caught early.
Any sudden vision loss, whether painful or painless, requires immediate attention because prompt treatment offers better vision outcomes in the case of eye occlusions. Also remember to check in with your physician for diagnosis and treatment of other potentially serious eye occlusion risk factors.
EYE PAIN (Back To Top)
Eye pain or eye discomfort is not normal and should always be checked by your eye care professional. It is especially urgent if the pain comes with any of the following symptoms:
Diagnosis and Treatment of Eye Pain
The location of the eye pain is a prime indicator of what the trouble might be. For instance, pain that feels like it is coming from within the eye or from the surface of the eye (the cornea), could indicate the following problems:
Any direct injury to the eye, such as being scratched by an animal, should be handled immediately by our office.
Eye pain coming from behind your eyes can often be attributed to either migraines or sinus pressure/infection. Although neither of these conditions are medical emergencies, they do need to be addressed, particularly if they are severe and recurring.
Pain emanating from around the eyes can signal any of the following:
Optic neuropathy - This condition is very serious and can cause vision loss.
Contact our office immediately if you are experiencing eye pain. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can save your sight.
EYE TWITCHES (Back To Top)
Few eye issues are as simultaneously subtle and annoying as a twitch that comes on suddenly and/or recurs frequently. A twitching eyelid may not appear visible to the people around you at all, but it can make you feel highly self-conscious and drive you to search for the cause and the cure. Unfortunately, there are so many possible reasons for the twitching that figuring out how to stop it can prove a most challenging task. The good news is that most of the reasons for eye twitching pose no serious threat to your ocular or neurological well-being.
Causes of Eye Twitching
Perhaps most common recognizable cause of eyelid twitching is dry eye syndrome. Dry eyes may afflict you if you spend lots of time staring at a computer screen, you are exposed to air conditioning or wind, or you have a medical condition that impairs tear production. Using eye drops and reducing your exposure to dryness triggers may not only help your eyes feel better but also eliminate the twitching. Other common causes include eyestrain, fatigue, caffeine abuse, and allergic reactions. Your twitching eyelid may also be an indicator of a condition known as blepharitis. Blepharitis is an irritation caused by inflamed oil glands next to the eyelashes. Our office can recommend several home remedies to help you get this problem -- and hopefully the twitch -- under control.
Neurological problems can cause eye twitches as well. Just as the nervous system's countless branches send motor signals to every part of the body, certain nerves send commands to the muscles in the face, including the eyes and eyelids. A variety of issues can interfere with optimal nerve signaling, causing the muscles attached to these nerves to go into spasm. Your twitching eye could therefore be part of a larger facial tic known as a hemifacial spasm, especially if the eye closes completely with each twitch. This condition is sometimes treated with Botox injections. Other neurological conditions can also affect the facial nerves to produce twitching motions.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Less commonly, eye twitching can be a sign of an ocular disorder that requires treatment by an eye doctor. These conditions include uveitis (an inflammation of the iris), conjunctivitis (the infamous "pinkeye"), and entropion (inwardly-turned eyelashes, mostly seen in older patients). We can discuss your symptoms and medical history with you to help you figure out how best to cope with that annoying twitch.
LOW VISION (Back To Top)
Most people classified as blind still retain some ability to see. They often have significantly impaired vision but can discern light, shapes, or other figures. Low vision refers to a class of visual impairment that cannot be corrected by glasses or contact lenses. A number of conditions may cause low vision, and actual visual abilities may vary by individual. A thorough assessment by an eye care provider can help you determine the severity of your visual impairment and identify potential avenues for treatment.
What Is Considered Low Vision?
The World Health Organization defines low vision by degree of impairment. Someone whose best corrected vision (in his or her best eye) is 20/70 to 20/160 has moderate low vision; vision in the 20/200 to 20/400 range is considered severe low vision; from 20/500 to 20/1,000 is profound low vision; and less than 20/1,000 is near total blindness. Only if someone cannot discern any light is he or she considered to be totally blind.
So what does this mean for you? If you have a visual condition that prevents your visual abilities to be fully corrected to near 20/20, you may have low vision. Significant loss of visual field, such as the inability to see in peripheral areas, is also considered low vision.
Causes of Low Vision
Low vision does not refer to a single etiology of vision loss. Rather, it is a cluster of conditions that significantly impair visual abilities. Common causes of low vision include macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment, cataracts, or glaucoma. Many of these conditions are associated with aging, and older adults are more likely to experience low vision. However, traumatic brain injury, eye injuries, and some genetic conditions can cause low vision at any age.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Low Vision
A thorough optometry exam is the best way to diagnose low vision. Our optometrist will test your visual acuity, visual fields, and ability to detect color and contrast. Although by definition, low vision cannot be corrected by prescription glasses or surgery, some therapeutic options can help you continue activities of daily living. Magnifying devices, using large-print materials, and increasing contrast may facilitate everyday activities. Other aids, such as books-on-tape or talking watches may also be helpful. Discuss your visual impairment with your optometrist to come up with a plan to improve your quality of life despite low vision.
OCULAR ROSACEA (Back To Top)
Ocular rosacea, an inflammation of the eye and/or eyelid, occurs in conjunction with rosacea of the skin. A chronic inflammatory condition, rosacea primarily affects the face, cheeks, forehead, and chest area. When rosacea affects the eyes and/or eyelids, the condition is known as ocular rosacea.
Symptoms of Ocular Rosacea
Ocular rosacea primarily occurs in conjunction with rosacea of the skin, appearing either before, after, or at the same time as a skin flare up, but ocular rosacea can also develop independently. Symptoms of ocular rosacea include itchy, dry, burning, or stinging eyes; red or swollen eyelids; frequent styes; excessive tearing; eye redness (erythema); visible blood vessels on the whites of the eye; sensitivity to light; blurred vision; and the feeling of having something caught in the eye. Individuals with rosacea often do not realize they are also experiencing ocular rosacea, as eye symptoms are not always as severe as skin symptoms.
Who is at Risk For Ocular Rosacea?
Individuals with fair skin, a family history of rosacea, or who are prone to blushing or flushing are at a higher risk of developing rosacea. Among those who develop ocular rosacea, most are women between the ages of 30 and 60 or undergoing menopause.
When to See a Doctor For Ocular Rosacea
Individuals who experience any discomfort or symptoms of rosacea around their eyes or eyelids should contact our office immediately. Patients who have been diagnosed with skin rosacea should visit an eye care professional periodically to rule out the possibility of ocular rosacea. If left untreated, ocular rosacea can lead to further medical complications such as blepharitis or chronic dry eyes, which can permanently damage the cornea and lead to vision loss.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Ocular Rosacea
Our doctor diagnoses ocular rosacea simply by reviewing symptoms, looking over medical history, and examining the patient's eyes and eyelids. As the exact cause of ocular rosacea is not yet understood, no cure exists. The symptoms, however, can be managed with oral antibiotics and regular cleaning of eyelids with a prescription solution. Sometimes we might recommend artificial tears.
We might also recommend patients with ocular rosacea make a few lifestyle adjustments, as certain activities have been shown to aggravate the condition. Activities that may aggravate ocular rosacea include consuming hot or spicy foods and beverages, drinking alcohol, undergoing both physical and emotional stress, getting too much sunlight, taking drugs which dilate the blood vessels like blood pressure medication, and exposing the skin to extreme cold or hot temperatures.
OPTIC NEURITIS (Back To Top)
Also known as demyelinating optic neuritis, optic neuritis refers to the inflammation of the optic nerve due to the loss of or damage to a protective covering called myelin, which surrounds the optic nerve. The myelin is essential to the function of the optic nerve. A more general term, optic neuropathy, refers to nerve damage or abnormalities due to blocked blood flow, disease, or toxic exposure. Optic neuritis is a type of optic neuropathy.
Symptoms of Optic Neuritis
Several vision symptoms accompany optic neuritis including blurred vision, blind spots, pain with eye movement, and reduced color vision. These symptoms typically precede a loss of vision. If left untreated, optic neuritis can lead to permanent optic nerve damage and permanent loss of visual acuity.
Causes of Optic Neuritis
Although the exact cause of optic neuritis is not yet understood, optic neuritis occurs when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin, which protects your optic nerve. The myelin is vital for the proper function of the optic nerve. When damaged, the nerve cannot efficiently transfer electric signals/information from the eyes to the brain, hindering vision.
Optic neuritis tends to occur in conjunction with several medical conditions, disorders, and diseases including multiple sclerosis (MS), neuromyelitis optica, systemic lupus erythematosus, sarcoidosis, Lyme disease, ocular herpes, syphilis, measles, mumps, and sinusitis. In addition, optic neuritis can also develop in reaction to certain medications.
Most common among women, young adults between the ages of 20 and 40 are at the greatest risk of developing optic neuritis.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Optic Neuritis
Eye care professionals diagnose optic neuritis using a series of tests and evaluations including a routine eye exam, an ophthalmoscopy (to inspect the back of the eye, looking for a swollen optic nerve), pupillary light reaction test (to check for abnormal function of the pupil), and blood tests.
Patients diagnosed with optic neuritis are much more likely to develop MS. As a result, if a patient is diagnosed with optic neuritis, an MRI will often be recommended to look for further signs of nerve damage and the possible development of MS.
Optic neuritis may clear up on its own. If, however, it does not, our doctor will usually recommend a regimen of steroids administered both orally and intravenously to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system.
If signs of MS are present in the patient, medications to slow the onset or development of MS will also be prescribed.
PHOTOPHOBIA (Back To Top)
Do you find yourself squinting or closing your eyes in bright light? It could be photophobia or acute light sensitivity. Eyes are designed to respond to light, but certain conditions can create light sensitivity. Exposure to sunlight, fluorescent light, incandescent light and other bright light sources can irritate a person who suffers from this condition.
Symptoms of Photophobia
Photophobia can affect anyone regardless of age or gender. It is not an eye disease itself, but is typically a sign of another eye problem. It can be a temporary occurrence or a recurring problem.
When a person suffers from photophobia, they can experience extreme discomfort in bright light. Outward symptoms include squinting, excessively closing eyes, excess tear production, and a burning sensation in the eyes. The severity of light sensitivity is proportional to the seriousness of the underlying eye problem behind the photophobia.
Causes of Photophobia
Multiple eye diseases and conditions can be a root cause for photophobia. A simple infection or inflammation can irritate the eye and produce light sensitivity. Migraines or other severe headaches can also lead to photophobia.
Eye color can influence light sensitivity. People who have lighter colored irises experience greater sensitivity than people with darker irises. Extra pigment can serve as a protective barrier against brighter lights.
Sometimes photophobia is directly related to a serious eye problem. It can be a symptom of various eye diseases and conditions, including:
Contact lens irritations
Color vision defects
Treatments For Photophobia
If you are suffering from photophobia, the best thing to do is to treat the underlying cause. Once the factor triggering light sensitivity is dealt with, photophobia will usually go away and your eyes will return to their normal state.
Some prescription medications can cause light sensitivity. If that is the cause of your photophobia, talk with your physician about replacing it with another medication that does not cause that side effect.
You can wear protective eyewear while outdoors or in brightly lit rooms. Sunglasses with polarized or photochromic lenses reduce glare and also block UV rays that can damage eyes. Avoid bright light or harsh light whenever possible if you are suffering from photophobia.
Extreme cases of photophobia may require prosthetic contact lenses colored to resemble your eyes. These lenses reduce the amount of light entering your eyes and alleviate sensitivity.
PTOSIS (Back To Top)
Ptosis (TOE-sis) refers to an upper eyelid that droops and can occur in children or adults. The droop may be hardly visible, or it could cover the entire pupil. Depending on the severity of the droop, it could interfere with vision. People with ptosis may try to lift the droopy eyelids or tilt their heads back to see more clearly.
Causes of Ptosis
Most commonly, ptosis develops as part of the aging process, as the muscle tendon stretches or becomes separated from the eyelid. The tendon can also be affected by trauma, cataract surgery, or other corrective eye surgery. In some cases, a baby may be born with ptosis (congenital ptosis). A droopy eyelid can also be caused by a neurological disorder, an eye tumor, or a systemic disease such as diabetes.
Diagnosis and Treatment For Ptosis
We will examine your eyelids carefully by taking detailed measurements of the height of your eyelids. He or she will also assess the strength of your eyelid muscles.
For childhood ptosis, surgery may be required to improve vision and cosmetic appearance while preventing or reducing future vision problems. The surgical procedure involves tightening the muscle that lifts the affected eyelid. In cases of severe ptosis with a very weak muscle, the doctor can attach or suspend the eyelid from under the eyebrow so that the forehead muscles lift the eyelid.
In adults, ptosis treatment usually needs surgery. In milder cases, creating a small tuck in the lifting muscle and removing excess eyelid skin is sufficient to raise the lid. However, more severe ptosis requires reattaching and strengthening the muscle.
RED EYES (Back To Top)
Red eyes, or bloodshot eyes, is a common eye problem. It occurs when blood vessels in the sclera – the white part of the eyeball – swell or expand as a result of inflammation or irritation. Bloodshot eyes can appear without warning as a symptom of an injury, allergies or another eye condition.
Symptoms of Red Eye
The severity of red eye symptoms can vary based on the underlying condition causing the red eye. It can cover the entire sclera or be limited to a few expanded blood vessels.
Brief periods of eye redness are common and not usually a cause for worry. If red eye is persistent and results in eye pain or worsening vision, it could be a sign of a serious eye disease or condition that needs medical attention. If redness does not go away, you should visit your eye care professional to get a diagnosis of the condition and proper treatment.
Causes of Red Eye
Anything that leads to irritation or inflammation can be considered a cause for red eye.
Allergies are the most common cause for red eye. When the body releases histamine to fight allergens, it can enlarge blood vessels in your eyes and make them turn red and watery. Dry eyes can also cause redness. If your tear glands fail to produce enough tears to lubricate your eyes, the surface of the eye can become irritated.
Contact lenses can promote eye redness if not worn properly or cleaned regularly. They can restrict oxygen and tear production in eyes and dry them out. Wearing them too long can cause surface debris and microbes to build up and cause infections and redness. Staring at a computer screen too long can also have a drying out effect and cause eye redness.
Treatments For Red Eye
Treating red eye depends on the root cause of the problem. Schedule an eye exam so we can diagnose what is causing your eye redness and prescribe proper treatment.
Eye drops are effective in treating redness caused by dry eyes or allergies. Cold compresses can also be useful in reducing redness. Avoid rubbing your eyes. That can cause more redness and irritation and create cornea scratches.
If you wear contact lenses, always remove them when experiencing eye irritation. Clean and replace them as instructed so you can keep your contact lenses from accumulating harmful bacteria.
SLEEP / DISCHARGE (Back To Top)
Sometimes referred to as "sleep" or eye matter, eye discharge that appears in normal consistency upon waking is a typical part of your body's defense mechanisms, protecting your eyes from bacteria or other irritants. Eye discharge that appears in abnormal consistency, color, or quantities might be a sign of a more serious condition and should be brought to the attention of an eye care profession right away.
Causes of Sleep/Abnormal Eye Discharge
Abnormal eye discharge usually indicates an underlying condition -- sometimes bacterial, viral, or allergy related. One of the most common causes of abnormal eye discharge is conjunctivitis (pink eye), which refers to the inflammation of the conjunctiva (the lining of the underside of the eyelid and white of the eye). Conjunctivitis occurs due to contagious bacterial and viral infections as well as allergies. In addition, conditions such as ocular herpes, Acanthamoeba keratitis, blepharitis, and styes also lead to excessive or abnormal eye discharge.
Some issues which are not infectious can lead to abnormal eye discharge as well. These include chronic dry eyes, a blocked tear duct, sensitivity to contact lenses, an eye injury, and a corneal ulcer.
Symptoms of Sleep/Abnormal Eye Discharge
Symptoms of abnormal eye discharge include discharge which might be thicker, gooier, or more excessive than normal. Abnormal eye discharge might also be a different color than normal such as green, yellow, or even grey. In addition to these variances, one might notice the following symptoms:
If a bacterial or viral infection is present, symptoms such as body aches, chills, fever, sneezing, and/or coughing might accompany the above-mentioned eye symptoms. A change in normal eye discharge alone or accompanied by any of these symptoms should be brought to our office's attention, as it is usually the sign of a more serious underlying problem.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Sleep/Abnormal Eye Discharge
Dr. Verna will diagnose the cause of abnormal eye discharge by looking at your medical history and performing an eye exam. If a corneal ulcer is present, the doctor will likely test a sample to determine whether or not an infection is present.
Treatment for abnormal eye discharge depends on the diagnosis of the underlying cause, and might include oral antibiotics, antibiotic eye drops, antihistamines, or antihistamine eye drops. To alleviate symptoms at home, eye care professionals often recommend using a warm, wet compress.
SWOLLEN EYELIDS (Back To Top)
Swollen eyelids are a fairly common eye condition caused by inflammation or excess fluid in the connective tissues surrounding the eye. Depending on the cause, swollen eyelids can be painful or not painful and affect the upper eyelid, the lower eyelid, or both. Swollen eyes can be caused by many different factors, including allergies, styes, a blocked gland, traumatic eye injury, and conjunctivitis (“pink eye”).
Causes of Swollen Eyelids
In some cases, swollen eyelids may be symptomatic of a bigger health problem, such as orbital cellulitis (a sudden infection of the tissue surrounding the eye), Graves' disease (an autoimmune eye disorder associated with abnormalities of the thyroid gland), and ocular herpes (a recurrent viral infection that can cause inflammation and scaring of the cornea). In general, swollen eyelids are accompanied by symptoms such as itching or scratching sensations, excessive tear production resulting in watery eyes, obstructed vision, redness of the eyelid, eye discharge, and eyelid dryness or flaking. Pain generally accompanies swollen eyelids that are caused by an infection.
Many people also use the term “puffy eyes” interchangeably with swollen eyelids. However, for medical professionals, swollen eyes are generally used to describe an immune system response to an allergy, infection, or injury. Puffy eyes typically refer to eyes that are swollen from external reasons, such as water retention, a lack of sleep, or even genetic traits like dark circles under the eyes.
Eye allergies are the most common cause for swollen eyes. In this case, the swollen eyes are symptomatic of the body’s overreaction to a foreign substance, known as an allergen. Common allergens that can trigger swollen eyes include pollen, dust and pet dander. Some types of contact solution and eye drops may also trigger an allergic reaction in certain individuals.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Swollen Eyelids
The treatment of swollen eyes depends on the cause. Generally, if eyes are swollen due to allergies, antihistamine drops or oral allergy medication will be an effective treatment. For severe allergic reactions, an eye care professional may also recommend mild steroid drops. Ocular herpes and conjunctivitis are treated with anti-viral medications or anti-inflammatory eye drops, ointments, or antibiotics.
For at home care, remove contact lenses (if you wear them) until the swelling stops. Applying a cool compress can relieve swelling and pain. Most importantly, do not rub the eyes as this will only aggravate the condition. Contact our office should conditions worsen or pain intensify, in order to rule out the possibility of a more serious cause for this pain.