1. What is sore eyes?

Sore eyes or viral conjunctivitis is a common eye infection affecting the outer lining of the eyeball  the conjunctiva  as well as the inner lining of the eyelids. It usually occurs during the cooler and wet months of the year, during which the incidence of viral respiratory infections such as influenza is higher. Common symptoms are eye redness, stinging and foreign body sensation, itching, and sticky eye discharge. Vision may become blurred from excessive tearing, discharges and from photophobia (or extreme glare), caused by the inflammation. It is self-limiting, lasting 7-10 days but with some amount of variability depending on the viral strain. Treatment is aimed at reducing discomfort as there is no definitive medication against the viral infection. Cool compresses, ocular vasconstrictors and anihistaminics are helpful. In severe cases ocular steroids may be prescribed but should be monitored by an eyeMD. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses but may be used to cover a secondary infection. The infection is highly contagious, often resulting in epidemics, as it spreads easily by hand-to-eye primarily and to a lesser degree, droplet contamination.

2. What is a stye?

A stye or kuliti (medical term: hordeolum) is an infected abscess of a hair follicle or an oil gland on the margin of the eyelid. It presents as a focal, reddish swelling of the eyelid margin which is tender to touch and causes mild pain and discomfort. Often, local treatment, including topical antibiotics and warm compresses is sufficient. If extensive swelling and spread of the infection along the adjacent eyelid (cellulitis) occurs, systemic antibiotics are given. If not resolved with medication then removal through minor surgery may become necessary.

3. Is it safe to use contact lenses?

Contact lenses are used safely by millions of people globally. There are however certain guidelines and limitations to assure the continued safe use of these useful appliances. All contact lens users must maintain strict hygiene during all aspects of the handling of the contact lenses including insertion/removal into/from the eye, cleaning and storing. Contact lens solutions must be changed and the contact lens case washed with soap and water daily. Contact lens solution bottles must be replaced every month to decrease contamination risk. The wearing of contact lenses while asleep is ill-advised and is the cause of many serious eye infections, and should be done only in special situations with an eyeMD in supervision.

4. What is dry eye?

Dry eye is a condition wherein one’s tears are insufficient or evaporate too quickly to maintain a healthy eye surface. This causes symptoms such as foreign body sensation, stinging, a heavy feeling in the eyes, build up of debris around the eye, itchiness, and even blurring of vision. It is commonly seen in persons from the older age groups but may affect all age groups. It is common in people with eyelid disease, ocular allergy, and other inflammatory conditions of the eye surface. Activities such as prolonged reading, computer use and TV watching are becoming frequent causes of dry eye. Systemic medications such anti-hypertensives, certain heart medicines, and sedatives commonly contribute to dry eye. Regular use of ocular vasoconstrictors, anesthetics, and anti-glaucoma medications are also implicated. The treatment of dry eye depends on its severity and can range from ocular lubricants or artificial tears to anti-inflammatory eye drops to implantable appliances to preserve one’s supply of tears. Modifications in one’s diet to increase intake of omega-3 essential fatty acids (flaxseed oil, fish oil, nuts) is also currently favored. Often dry eye is a chronic disease that can only be controlled but not completely cured.

5. What is allergic conjunctivitis?

Allergic conjunctivitis is an inflammatory reaction of the lining of the front surface of the eye and the back of the eye lids. Like all allergies, allergic conjunctivitis is caused by an otherwise non-reactive substance, e.g., dust, that the body’s immune system regards as foreign and mounts an attack against it. This results in itching, lid swelling, eye redness, tearing, and sticky discharge. It is common to find other allergies like allergic rhinitis, asthma, and eczematous dermatitis present in a single person. Treatment for allergic conjunctivitis consists of antihistamine medications primarily eye drops, sometimes, systemic -- ocular lubricants, and topical anti-inflammatory medications. Currently, allergies are controlled but not cured and therefore avoidance of the offending substance (the allergen) is an important part of the management.