General Eye Conditions
Wearing quality sunglasses that protect your eyes from 100 percent of the sun's harmful UV rays is an important step to keeping your eyes healthy. But it's not enough.
For a lifetime of good eyesight, it's crucial to have a routine comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. In addition to updating your eyeglass prescription, your eye doctor will thoroughly examine your eyes to rule out common eye problems.
Your eye doctor can detect early eye problems, often before you notice any symptoms. And early detection enables early treatment, which can prevent unnecessary vision loss or eye discomfort.
Common eye problems your doctor will be looking for during a comprehensive exam include:
Dry eyes. Dry eye syndrome (dry eyes) is one of the most common eye problems, and a frequent cause of contact lens discomfort and other symptoms, including burning, stinging and intermittent blurred vision. Dry eyes usually can be successfully treated with artificial tears and/or medicated eye drops formulated to help you produce more tears. In some cases, your eye doctor might recommend insertion of tiny silicone "stoppers" (punctal plugs) in the tear drainage ducts of your eyelids to increase how long your tears stay on the surface of your eyes. He or she might also recommend nutritional supplements such as flaxseed oil and fish oil that contain omega-3 fatty acids, which might reduce your risk for dry eyes.
Eye allergies. If you have red, itchy and watery eyes, you might have eye allergies caused by irritants such as pollen, dust or pet dander. To relieve the signs and symptoms of eye allergies, your doctor can prescribe medicated eye drops. He or she also might recommend frequent use of artificial tears and eye washes to flush out pollen, dust particles or chemicals that are irritating your eyes.
Conjunctivitis. Also called pink eye, conjunctivitis is inflammation of the surface of the eye and the inner lining of the eyelids that is associated with either an eye infection or allergies. Signs and symptoms include: itchy, watery eyes; sensitivity to light; a foreign body sensation (the feeling something is in your eye) and a sticky, mucous-like discharge. Depending on its cause, pink eye can be highly contagious. Your eye doctor can prescribe the proper treatment (usually medicated eye drops) based on the appearance of your eyes.
Blepharitis. This is inflammation of the eyelid that usually is associated with excessive bacteria on the lids, dry eyes, and/or a skin condition called rosacea. Blepharitis can occur primarily at the base of the eyelashes (anterior blepharitis) or on the inner surface of the lid margin (posterior blepharitis). Symptoms include: red, puffy lids; itchiness; dryness; a foreign body sensation and sensitivity to light. Treatment usually includes medicated eye drops and routine eyelid hygiene.
Subconjunctival hemorrhage. A subconjunctival hemorrhage is characterized by a painless, bright red appearance to some or all of the "white" of the eye (sclera). The condition looks scary but is harmless. It is caused by blood leaking from of a small blood vessel on the surface of the eye. This blood fans out under the thin clear coating (conjunctiva) that covers the sclera, causing a bright red appearance. In some cases, the entire sclera can appear red. A subconjunctival hemorrhage can be caused by something as simple as a cough or a sneeze. other causes include trauma to the eye, physical exertion or vomiting. Though most subconjunctival hemorrhages resolve on their own in a matter of days or weeks, if trauma was the cause, see your eye doctor immediately to make sure other, more serious damage to your eye has not occurred, such as a retinal detachment or hyphema (bleeding inside the eye).
Styes. A stye (or sty) is an infection of a gland at the edge of your eyelid that resembles a pimple. Most styes will rupture and heal on their own within a few days. Applying a warm compress to the eyelid often helps the process along. If you have frequent styes, your eye doctor might recommend special eyelid scrubs and other measures to reduce your risk of recurrence.
Eye Twitching. A twitching eyelid is annoying, but harmless, and usually goes away in a day or two without treatment. It's sometimes called eye twitching, but it is the eyelid, not your eye that is the source of the movement, which is caused by involuntary contractions or spasms of tiny muscles in your eyelid. The cause of eye twitching is unknown, but it's generally believed that stress, fatigue and stimulants such as caffeine may play a role.
Floaters. Do you ever see little lint-like shadows floating in front of your eyes? Eye floaters are common visual phenomena that look like tiny bits of lint in your field of vision. They are called "floaters" because they seem to float or glide back and forth in front of your eyes. Floaters (also called vitreous floaters) are caused by tiny bits of tissue embedded in the clear, gel-like fluid (vitreous) that fills the back of the eye. Most vitreous floaters are normal, harmless, and usually become more noticeable with age. But if you notice a sudden onset of many floaters, especially if you see flashes of light, this could be a symptom of a serious problem: a detached retina. If in doubt, see your eye doctor immediately.
Ocular migraine. Though not really an eye problem, ocular migraine is another condition that causes temporary visual disturbances. Originating in the brain, an ocular migraine usually is characterized by zig-zag lines, a shimmering halo or a blind spot in the center of your field of vision. Generally, these disturbances last about 20 to 30 minutes. Unlike a migraine headache, an ocular migraine is painless. Ocular migraines usually can be prevented by avoiding common triggers that also cause migraine headaches; but in some cases, medication may be needed.
To rule out these and other common eye and vision problems, be sure to have routine comprehensive eye exams as recommended by your optometrist or ophthalmologist. If your eye doctor sees or suspects problems that are not eye-related, he or she will refer you to an appropriate physician for further evaluation.
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