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How to Care for Your Eyes

        Health | Hygiene Tips

More Temporary Eye Conditions
©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of central-vision loss among people over age 60.

Dry Eyes

When your eyes don't tear properly, they can sting, burn, and itch. These are the symptoms of dry eyes, a condition most common in women after menopause. Antianxiety and sleeping medications, antihistamines, decongestants, and some arthritis and high blood pressure medications also can cause or worsen dry eyes. Sometimes an allergic reaction to eyedrops or an infection that blocks the tear ducts can result in dry eyes, or the condition may, in rare cases, be the result of Sjögren syndrome -- a chronic connective tissue disorder. Dry eyes often accompany blepharitis.

See your doctor for a diagnosis. Artificial tear preparations can help relieve the symptoms. Avoid over-the-counter eyedrops that contain vasoconstrictors; these may cause further drying. Other steps to take:

  • Avoid tobacco and other air irritants.
  • Don't aim hair dryers toward your eyes.
  • Wear glasses to protect your eyes from wind.
  • Wear goggles while swimming.
  • Keep the relative humidity of your home and office between 30 and 50 percent.

Eye RednessRed eyes can signify a variety of troubles, from lack of sleep or a minor medical condition to a major vision-threatening illness. If sleep deprivation isn't the problem, your red eyes might indicate:

  • a small problem that will heal itself, such as a rupture of the tiny blood vessels of the conjunctiva possibly caused by hard coughing or sneezing
  • an allergic reaction
  • a bacterial or viral infection of the conjunctiva
  • the onset of a sty
  • iritis, an inflammation of the uvea, the layer of the eye that includes the iris (Iritis may require drug treatment.)
  • a trauma, such as a foreign object in the eye, which may require first aid and possible professional medical attention

To get rid of redness, you can use decongestant eyedrops available over the counter. But don't overdo them. Also, before using drops, check with your doctor to be sure your eye redness isn't a symptom of something serious.

Also, any time you have red eyes along with pain, significant eye discharge, blurred vision, or severe sensitivity to light, see your doctor. These symptoms could indicate an inflammation on the inside of the eye, an ulcer of the eye, or even glaucoma.

You should never rub irritated eyes. If a foreign object is in your eye, you could cause serious damage.

Macular Degeneration

In this condition, deterioration occurs in the macula, the small central part of the retina. This deterioration leads to blurring of central vision, while peripheral vision remains intact. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of central-vision loss among people over age 60. It usually doesn't lead to total blindness, but it severely restricts activities relying on central vision, such as reading and driving. Risk factors for macular degeneration include smoking, age, family history of macular degeneration, and being a white woman.

There are two types of macular degeneration: dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration. Wet macular degeneration is the most severe type and causes the most visual loss, but it accounts for only 10 percent of all cases of macular degeneration. Dry macular degeneration is more common, accounting for 90 percent of all cases, and tends to progress more slowly. In all cases, visual loss is progressive, but the rate varies with the type and stage of the condition. There are many new treatment options that can slow its progression, although they cannot cure the disease. If you're diagnosed with an early stage of the disease, talk to your doctor about taking high doses of vitamins A, C, and E and the mineral zinc. These have been shown to help slow progression of the disease. Smokers, however, should not take formulations that contain beta-carotene, as this increases the risk of lung cancer. More advanced stages of macular degeneration can be treated with various types of laser therapy or with injections of a drug directly into the eye(s) that interferes with the mechanism that causes the condition.

Night Blindness

A person with night blindness can see fine in good light but not in dim or fading light. Causes of night blindness include either a severe vitamin A deficiency, or an inherited degenerative disorder of the retina called retinitis pigmentosa. In the case of severe vitamin A deficiency, treatment would be administration of the vitamin. A physician's care is crucial, however, to be sure that night blindness is, indeed, the problem and that the doses of the vitamin are safe.

Retinitis

Inflammation of the retina, or retinitis, can have many causes, ranging from hereditary conditions to infections. Various forms have many of the same symptoms:

  • night blindness
  • inflammation of the retina
  • tunnel vision
  • loss of sense of body movement

StyAlthough it's only about the size of a pimple, a sty can be extremely annoying and painful. This inflamed or infected swelling can be the result of an infected follicle (the canals from which hairs sprout), or it may be from a blocked gland in the eyelid. Sties are sometimes, but not always, related to blepharitis.

At first, a sty feels like a foreign object in the eye. Tearing, redness, swelling, and tenderness soon follow. The eye may be sensitive to light and touch, and pus may form inside the pimplelike bump, which may burst.

A sty will go away on its own, although you might have to live with it for a week or so. Applying warm, moist compresses several times a day may encourage the sty to burst and then begin to heal. DO NOT, however, squeeze a sty. You risk making it much worse. If the sty doesn't improve, see your doctor. An antibiotic ointment or, rarely, surgical removal may be in order.

Our eyes are extremely intricate yet delicate apparatuses. Since they are such a vital part of the way we interact with the world, don't they deserve the best care possible?

©Publications International, Ltd.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.