By Dr. Cynthia Payne

While eye problems can occur any time of the year, with springtime comes an increase of itchy, red, puffy and watery eyes. A variety of conditions can cause these symptoms, including allergies, dry eye, bacterial and viral pink eye, as well as skin conditions such as an overpopulation of bacteria or skin mites at the lid margin.

Allergy eyes are itchy, watery, puffy, red and may have a dark under-eye appearance. They also may have dry eye symptoms. Frequent use of artificial tears, cold compresses and over-the-counter allergy eye drops can be very effective. Environmental modifications to help with allergy eyes include bathing before bedtime, using air purifiers and keeping doors and windows closed. If the itching is severe, there may be a need for prescription allergy and/or steroid eye drops to make the eyes more comfortable.

Symptoms associated with dry eye, in addition to itching, may include burning, watering, irritation, sandy/gritty sensation, increased light sensitivity and blurred and/or fluctuating vision. Many times, these symptoms can be alleviated by using a quality artificial tear frequently throughout the day. Keeping the body properly hydrated, using a humidifier and taking an omega-3 supplement can also be helpful. In more extreme cases, prescription medications to decrease inflammation of dry eye or punctal plugs to increase tear volume on the eye may be necessary. Lipiflow treatment helps by expressing the Meibomian oil glands in the lids to improve the oily layer of the tear film and prevent the tears from evaporating so quickly.

“Symptoms associated with dry eye, in addition to itching, may include burning, watering, irritation, sandy/gritty sensation, increased light sensitivity and blurred and/or fluctuating vision.”

Both bacterial and viral pink eye (conjunctivitis) will have the symptoms of itching, mucous discharge, watering, redness and irritation. These eyes may also be very light sensitive. Again, cold compresses and artificial tears can make the eyes more comfortable. Cleaning the eyelids and lashes to remove mucous and bacteria will also help. A prescription antibiotic eye drop will help resolve a bacterial infection. You should have your eyes evaluated by an eye doctor if you have any of these symptoms. If you wear contact lenses, discontinue wear and see your eye doctor immediately.

When bacteria overpopulate at the lid margin in the lashes or mites called Demodex infest the lashes, one of the most common symptoms is itching in the lash line of the eyelids. This can also produce dry eye symptoms and crusting or flakes on the lids and lashes. The lid margins may look swollen, red and irritated with chronic advanced infestation. Treatment consists of cleaning the eyelids and lashes with a special formulated cleanser and possibly steroid/antibiotic combination eye drops or ointment.

While this is an overview of possible causes and relief, always consult with your doctor with any concerns or continuing eye problems.

Dr. Cynthia Payne is a board certified optometrist specializing in the treatment and management of ocular disease and owner of Trendsetter Eyewear with over 20 years’ experience. Schedule an appointment by calling 702.479.5222 or visit trendsettereyewear.com.

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