The surface of the eye is one of the areas of the human body most susceptible to environmental allergies and early Spring is one of the peak allergy seasons. Often, when we see a patient who comes in believing (understandably) that they have an eye infection we find the true culprit to be an ocular allergy. Since a true infectious, bacterial conjunctivitis and an allergic conjunctivitis both result in significant redness and discharge from the eye they can be easily confused. However, there are symptoms and findings which can help differentiate these entities; usually allergies will have:
- prominent itching, infections less so,
- discharge in an allergy is more likely to be clear and less thick than the colored, thicker discharge seen in an infection.
There are also several different appearances to the eye that your doctor may notice via careful examination of your eyes with a microscope. Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis affects about 20% of the U.S. population.
Why is the eye so reactive? The ocular surface contains over 50 million mast cells, these cells are the body’s early warning system and once they are activated by something you are allergic to they release a cascade of chemicals including histamines, which are responsible for most allergic symptoms.
Treatment for the ocular symptoms of seasonal allergies can involve the use of prescription eye drops and cold compresses. If you use oral allergy medications you should continue to use those as well. We also recommend monitoring air quality, trying to avoid extensive periods outdoors and keeping windows shut when the air quality is particularly poor. As a service to our patients we have added a link to this air quality index tool from Weatherbug.com to assist you in monitoring air quality.
Even while we enjoy the warmer weather and blooms of Spring we understand that, for many, this is a season that also brings with it some discomfort. At our four Chicago Eye Doctors at Pearle Vision eye care centers (Lincoln Park / DePaul, Old Town, Six Corners/Portage Park and Melrose Park) we are ready to help with the wide variety of eye care challenges our patients face.
If you’re lucky your contact lenses are usually so comfortable they are second nature, put them in and you’re ready to go. I’m always pleased when a patient is so comfortable with their lenses that they “don’t know they’re there”. But in the years of advancements of contact lens comfort, convenience and technology some contact lens wearers have perhaps grown too complacent about their care regimen.
A few years ago there was a rash of unusual contact lens related eye infections (caused by amoeba and fungal organisms), ultimately it was found that there were multiple causes of this outbreak, one of the common denominators was poor care compliance by the wearers who were not replacing their contact lens solution after each cycle of use. Since this became apparent I have made it a point to ask my contact lens patients about their care and lens replacement regimens as part of their annual contact lens evaluation. I’m happy to report that most patients do the right thing but still astounded by the lengths some folks will go to cut corners in a perceived effort to save time or money.
Here are some pointers and refreshers on “real world” situations and contact lens care:
- Always use soap and water to wash your hands and make sure your hands are dried with a lint-free towel before handling lenses.
- Try to avoid contact between your lenses and water (example: remove lenses before going swimming).
- Don’t rinse or store lenses in just water, whether tap or sterile.
- Never wet your lenses with your saliva.
- Saline solution and rewetting drops are not meant to disinfect your contact lenses.
- Discard your old lenses and start a new pair when you are supposed to (based on the schedule given for your particular type of lens).
- Properly clean and store your contact lenses.
- Rub your lenses with your fingers and then rinse them with solution, when cleaning your lenses (even if you have “no-rub” solution!).
- Rinse your contact lens case with solution, not water. Allow the case to air-dry.
- Replace your contact lens case every three months (at the very least!).
Spencer P. Vidulich, O.D.
One of the more common conditions seen in our Chicago Eye Doctor-Pearle Vision clinics is what people refer to as “pink eye”. However, the vast majority of patients who come in because they believe they have pink eye may not actually be suffering from that condition.
Classic pink eye refers to a bacterial infection of the outer layer (the conjunctiva) of the eye. The symptoms may include a mucous discharge (usually colored), redness of the eye and swelling of lids and of the white of the eye.
A few other conditions can mimic this presentation and more often than not, it is one of these conditions that are actually the cause:
- Viral conjunctivitis
- Allergic conjunctivitis
- Inflammatory conjunctivitis
There are several factors that can help us differentiate all of these conditions such as the nature of the discharge, patient history-in particular the nature of the onset and other associated symptoms (burning or itching), light sensitivity, presence in one eye vs. both and most importantly the appearance of the eye on examination with a microscope.
All of this information will help develop an appropriate treatment plan guided towards the correct causative agent.
To many of our patients that question causes a bit of anxiety, what if I don’t see any difference, will I get the wrong prescription?
The test we’re referring to is known in optometry parlance as refraction, it is an important part of an eye exam. But, at our four Chicago area Pearle Vision locations we use a combination of high tech equipment, experienced doctors and a commitment quality care to make this process precise and possibly even enjoyable.
So, what is this test about, isn’t it just to prescribe glasses or contacts? The answer is yes and much more. Dr. Todd Hungerford of Pearle Vision Melrose Park describes the refraction as important test to tell him about the overall status of a patient’s eye health. “A small change in a patient’s refraction can give me a clue if a patient has swelling in the cornea or retina or even cataracts.”
At Chicago Eye Doctors Pearle Vision we want you to know the importance we place on each and every step in your eye exam. We understand your concerns and through a combination of technology, experience, personal care and a commitment to quality we deliver a worry free experience in assessing your eye health and prescribing your glasses or contacts.
It’s a question we hear frequently at our Pearle Vision locations in Chicago and Melrose Park.
Dr. Spencer Vidulich optometrist the Riverpoint Center Pearle Vision says, “glasses will do one thing, help you see more clearly. If your child needs glasses to see the board or to help with reading they really should have them, the glasses won’t make the child’s eyes worse. One change that does occur is that, as a person gets used to seeing better the brain resets it’s idea of what “clear” vision is, a process called perceptual adaptation.”
It’s also important to realize that the connection of the eye to the brain is still forming for several years after birth, if a child is coping with blurred vision during this time without corrective lenses, irreversible vision damage can possibly occur. Amblyopia, a condition in which an eye cannot see better than 20/25 visual acuity even with glasses and in which no eye disease is present can result from not wearing corrective lenses during this critical developmental period.