I hope you have been keeping well. The cold has started subsiding; giving rise to sharp rays of blissful sunshine to penetrate our daily lives, bringing with them an upswing of moods and energy, ready to look forward to life. The pandemic though, is stubborn, so I implore all of you to please continue practicing safety measures, maintain social distancing, be aware & vigil.
The erratic weather currently experienced; presents us with a peculiar ocular phenomenon. Due to this fluctuating weather pattern, our eyes tend to feel quite uncomfortable, itchy and watery. Apart from turning dry often times during the day, they also scratch, itch and feel sore; giving rise to ocular allergies. I will try and give simple explanations and solutions for getting the Itch out of our eyes.
Many of us experience the above symptoms and rush to self-prescribe medicines or seek advice from the pharmacist. However, some of the eyedrops sold over the counter contain steroids which are not very favorable for our eyes. Eye whitening drops should also be shunned as they tend to continuously constrict blood vessels and cause them to become even more dilated than normal when the effect wears off. This makes our eyes more redder than before.
Most people getallergic conjunctivitis when their eyes come into contact with an allergen - a substance which makes the body's immune system overreact. The eye becomes sore, inflamed and sometimes painful. Symptoms occur due to the overreacting immune system that makes the body release histamine and other active substances by the 50 Million mast cells in our eyes. These cause dilation of blood vessels (blood vessels expand, widen), which irritates the nerve endings and causes increased secretion of tears.In the process Mast Cell degranulation is caused.
Type of Allergies
There are about 5 types of ocular allergies and each of these need to be properly diagnosed and treated. About 60 million people suffer from Allergic conjunctivitis worldwide. The Hallmark symptom of all this condition is Itching. Other symptoms are:
Hay fever (misnomer)
A slit-lamp examination is most suitable to identify Allergic Conjunctivitis as it provides a roadmap to initiate the right treatment. Apart from checking the conjunctiva, this evaluation also determines the health of the cornea and the skin around the eyelids; giving a clear picture as to the overall condition of the eyes.
In mild cases, it is best to avoid the causative agents, keep the eyes hydrated, wear a cold compressor mask and if prescribed; use anti-histamine drops. Acute conditions might need the intervention of an eyecare specialist whose advice needs to be followed properly. Artificial drops are also a necessity to keep up the lubrication of the cornea.One should also be weary of the offending allergens like animal dander, pollen etc and keep away from them as much as possible.Once it has been established that contact lens wear is causing the eyes to react, it is imperative that one follows correct handling and lens wearing time. A two-week break from contact lens wear will hugely benefit the eyes by soothing them and repairing the damaged areas and the surrounds. Further, it is logical to change the regime from monthly to daily wear, thereby reducing the necessity of using solutions and using a fresh lens daily. One-day lenses stand out to be quite healthy for the eyes as they have high water content which allows the eyes to ‘breathe’ better.Overnight and extended lens wear is very much discouraged. These should only be practiced under strict supervision of the eyecare professional otherwise they may cause ulcers on the cornea – a very debilitating and painful condition that takes quite some time to heal.
Caution & Counsel
Scratching and rubbing of the eyes should be strictly discouraged as this leads to corneal deformation which changes the shape of the cornea, resulting in the onset of a condition known as Keratoconus. The cornea takes the shape of a cone which leads to blurred vision and is very difficult to manage. It is quite rare for spectacles to correct blurred vision in such cases and only Rigid Gas Permeable contact lenses help in such situations.
Another perilous practice is to use steroids which is reasonable in price and easily available. However, it is dangerous to use steroids without them being prescribed by an Ophthalmologist. The correct usage and compliance discipline are an absolute prerequisite for steroidal treatment. Unfortunately, many chemists prescribe this medication without any sort of consultation. Patients need to be cognizant of its debilitating effects on our eyes.
Having imparted this education, I now leave you with good wishes and a with a thought provoking saying by Manly P Hall – via ‘The Minds Journal’
Wisdom lies in not seeing things, but seeing through things