Combating eye allergies

Courtesy of paultom2104 on Flickr.

Courtesy of paultom2104 on Flickr.

It’s that time when we spring ahead and lose one hour of precious sleep.  As we set our clocks forward, we should also keep in mind that spring is literally just a few weeks away.  Many of our trees start branching out and flowers start blooming in magnificent colors.  As an allergy sufferer, I view spring as a time of burgeoning new life on one hand and of the dreaded allergies on the other.

For my patients with known seasonal eye allergies, I pre-treat them with anti-allergy eye drops from a class of medication called mast cell stabilizers.  In an ideal world, I like to initiate the anti-allergy therapy about one month before the time that their allergies would have set in.  Mast cell stabilizers work by preventing the body from releasing histamines from mast cells that cause the itchy, watery, red, puffy irritated eyes.  For those patients that have a new onset of eye allergies, immediate relief is what they are probably looking for so I turn to my combo medications that contain both antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers.  Antihistamines as the name denotes, blocks histamines from attaching to key sites and activating the course of allergies.

Here are some helpful tips I share with all my patients:

Courtesy of krossbow on Flickr.

Courtesy of krossbow on Flickr.

  • Apply cold compresses on top of closed eyelids. This will shrink down blood vessels and limit the circulation of histamines that cause itching and other eye symptoms.
  • If you are a contact lens patient, clean your contacts well. You may want to switch to daily disposables to reduce pollen accumulation. Use anti-allergy eye drops that require once a day instillation. Wear glasses if the allergy is bothersome.
  • Wash your hair at night to eliminate all the pollen that collected during the day and to prevent coming into contact on the pillow while sleeping.
  • If you own a pet, bathe him more frequently to reduce pollen that is stuck on him. Best to keep your pet strictly indoors or outdoors to prevent transporting pollen into the house and on you.
  • Avoid drying clothes or bed sheets naturally outdoors as the pollen can adhere to these items.
  • Plan outdoor activities early in the morning and late in the evening as the pollen count is the lowest at these times.
  • Pick vacation spots that have low pollen counts such as the beach.
  • Get your daily pollen forecast on www.pollen.com. See what is floating around in your neighborhood or place of work.

As a “seasoned” (no pun intended) allergy sufferer, I am ready to combat the upcoming 2014 allergy season.  Are you?  Please make sure you plan ahead and make an appointment with your optometrist.

~Judy Tong, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association
http://eyehelp.org
http://www.coavision.org

Bob Costas’ eyes – An eye doc’s perspective

Screen shot of Bob Costas on air

Screen shot of Bob Costas on air

I’ve been seeing quite a bit of pink eyes these last couple of days. The first one started with Bob Costas’ left eye on TV Friday night while watching the Olympics coverage. The next day, I received two calls on my on-call line from patients worried that they might have a contagious pink eye. I returned to work Monday and have seen more pink eyes in three days than I can remember.

I believe I have Bob Costas to thank for that. Sure, Sage Kotsenburg scored the first gold medal in snowboarding slopestyle, but that wasn’t what my Facebook friends were talking about these last two days. They wanted to know what’s going on with Bob Costas’ eye.

Sadly, I noticed that his infection has spread to the other eye, although the Twitter account @BobCostasEyes probably let slip the 4-1-1 first.

I wish I could definitively diagnose his eye condition. But being that all I have to go on are pixelated images of Bob Costas frozen in mid-speech without the use of microscopes and surface dyes to judge for irregularities, I can only surmise.

If it was a bacterial infection from a contact lens, antibiotics should have cleared it up by now, and it wouldn’t have spread to the other eye.  Now that it’s spread to the right eye, it’s most likely a viral infection.  It looks much worse than it feels. The eyes are usually watery, glassy and bright red. A microscope would show bumps on the inner eyelids as well as any cloudy areas on the surface. This can be treated with medications to limit the length of the infection, although it can last up to three weeks. Cool compresses and artificial tears can provide some relief of symptoms also.

But if you look at Costas’ outer eyelids, they’re also very red and irritated. It’s quite possible that he was given medications that he discovered he was allergic too. In either case, it was smart to finally take a sick day and go off the air to give him time to recuperate. Let’s hope for a speedy recovery before Matt Lauer’s beard has its own Twitter account.

So, to all of you with healthy, white and clear eyes, keep your hands clean and away from your face, don’t shake hands with someone with a pink eye, and see your optometrist if you think you have an irritated pink eye. To read more about pink eye, see our previous blog article on this topic.

~Cindy P. Wang, OD, FAAO

California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org

Anatomy of the Eye 101

Courtesy of DVIDSHUB on Flickr

Courtesy of DVIDSHUB on Flickr

As a teacher and a doctor, I talk about the eye on a daily basis to my optometry students and patients alike.  I often use examples that my optometry students and patients can relate to.  The eye is like a high definition video camera that captures images of the visual world in real time.  If any part of your eye, that is, your “human video camera,” is affected or broken you may experience varying degrees of blurry vision, discomfort, or other common symptoms.  If you seek professional evaluation by your optometrist at the first inkling that something is out of sync, he or she can “fix or repair” your eye and get you back on a healthy track.

So let’s talk about the eye from front to back.

To start, the eyelids and lashes are the first visible structures to the outside observer.  Not only are the eyelids and lashes beautiful, but they also serve to protect the eye.  The eyelids spread lubricating tears like that of a windshield wiper across the surface of the eye with just a single blink, and the lashes act like specialized antennae sensing the smallest incoming offending particles.

Next, the conjunctiva is known to us as the “white” part of the eye.  This too is visible to the outside observer.  There are times that the conjunctiva may get inflamed or infected which results in that unwanted “pink eye” or conjunctivitis.

Much respect and attention has been given to the 5-layer-thick cornea as the clear window of the eye.  This is the layer where contact lenses are applied to correct nearsightedness or farsightedness.  Many successful surgeries like LASIK and corneal transplants have been performed on this tissue.

The anterior chamber and the vitreous are two compartments that give form to the eye and serve as conduits for circulating important fluids from one part of the eye to another.

Courtesy of entirelysubjective on Flickr

Courtesy of entirelysubjective on Flickr

The color part of the eye is called the iris.  It comes in many different colors and hues including brown, hazel, green, blue, and even violet.  The purpose of the iris is to regulate the amount of light that enters the eye.  Like that of a camera shutter, the iris controls the size of the pupil thus preventing under or over exposure of the picture of the visual world that is being seen.

The crystalline lens sits right behind the iris.  And similar to a camera lens, the human lens helps focus the things we see.

The retina, optic nerve, and macula can all be found way back in the eye.  The retina is the nervous tissue of the eye and is made up of 10 important layers. It gathers nervous signals and funnels it to the optic nerve.  As the name implies, the optic nerve is the nervous cable that connects the eye to the sight center in the back of the brain.  The macula allows you to see the finest details in vision.

This sums up the crash course on the Anatomy of the Eye 101.  Next time you are at your friendly optometrist’s office, just imagine the different parts of your eye being systematically looked at.

~By Judy Tong, OD

Summer & your eyes: Swimming pools

Yay – Summer is officially here!

School is out and we finally get to spend some serious time in the pool. But before you jump in, here are a few quick safety tips for you and your eyes:

Photo courtesy of Andrew Eick on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Andrew Eick on Flickr

  • The pH of our eyes is 7.2, so can you guess what the recommended pH is for your pool? (hint: it’s 7.2!) Remember to check the pH levels in your pool at least once or twice a week and try to keep it in the range of 7.0-7.6.
  • Chemical conjunctivitis or red eyes can occur due to chlorine exposure in swimming pools. Having a little after a day in the pool is okay, but if it persists into the next day or if it seems to be getting worse, call your optometrist and ask to have your eyes checked that same day.
  • As a general rule, contact lenses should never be worn in the pool. Doing so puts you at risk for a variety of possible infections, including a fungal infection called Fusarium keratitis that is difficult to treat and can lead to permanent blindness. (The only exclusion to this rule is for my daily disposable contact lens patients under the strict condition that their contacts are thrown out as soon as they leave the pool.)
  • Prescription goggles are available and can be fairly inexpensive! If you rely on your glasses to see, talk to your optometrist about prescription goggles for use in the pool.
  • And if you plan to be hanging out around the pool this summer, remember that sunglasses are just as important for protecting your eyes as sunblock is for protecting your skin. Make sure yours have UVA and UVB protection.

Have safe and fun summer!

~Ranjeet S. Bajwa, OD