Pink Eye Panic

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Allergic conjunctivitis

Q: My eyes were gooped up this morning and my roommate is freaking out.  Do I need antibiotic drops?

A:  Not necessarily.  It is common for us to wake up with some crustiness in the corner of our eyes. This is primarily caused by our tears drying on our eye lids overnight.  However, crustiness associated with any of the following symptoms should prompt you to seek medical attention as soon as possible:

  • Eyes that are stuck shut in the morning
  • Eyes that are red, irritated and watery
  • Burning sensation
  • Vision changes
  • Sensitivity to bright lights.

I know that just saying the words “pink eye” is enough to send people screaming down the street while spraying antibacterial lotion at you over their shoulder, but it’s important to remember that not all goopy eyes are infected.  Take a look at the photos to the right.  One is “pink eye” caused by a viral infection and the other is caused by allergies.  Can you tell which one is which?  (Answers below)

Allergies, dry eyes and other irritants can cause the same symptoms and they are treated differently.  And the “pink eye” kind of eye infection that spreads like wildfire through daycares is much less common in adults.  You should obviously avoid touching your eyes, wash your hands frequently and come in to get checked out, but you don’t need to be in quarantine.

A great way to prevent bacterial build-up on the eyelids and prevent infection is to wash your eyelids and eyelashes regularly by performing a “lid scrub.” With your eyes closed, rub gently along the eyelashes for about 30 seconds with a soft wash cloth moistened with warm water and diluted baby shampoo.  You can also use a specifically formulated eyelid scrub that can be found over-the-counter (Sterilid and Ocusoft are two brands we recommend).  If you wear contact lenses, be sure to take them out beforehand. 

Performing these lid scrubs once a day – along with wearing sunglasses – will help you maintain healthy eyelids and keep you seeing straight for years to come!

Nazreen Esack, OSU College of Optometry

Julia Geldis, OD (OSU SHS)

photo 1: virus infection          photo 2: allergies


Flashes and floaters and Eyes, Oh My!

Have you ever seen flashes of light or weird little floaters in your vision? Wonder what causes them, and if they’re something to worry about?  Well wonder no more my friends!

Your eye is composed of a gel-like substance called the vitreous that helps maintain the shape of the eye and acts as a “shock absorber” to protect the fragile retina. As we get older, the vitreous begins to liquefy and deteriorate, and the contents of the vitreous clump together. These clumps of vitreous can appear in your vision as “spots,” “cobwebs,” or “floaters” and may vary in size and location. These floaters tend to appear as moving spots in your vision and can come and go throughout the day.

Floaters are quite common and usually harmless, but they may lead to other more serious conditions, such as retinal tears or detachments. It is important to see an eye care professional immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • sudden onset of floaters
  • loss of vision that accompanies the floaters
  • numerous or large floaters
  • floaters associated with trauma to the eyes or head
  • a sudden increase (or “shower”) of floaters
  • flashes of light

Flash of light are a little more worrisome.  They are caused by stimulation of the retina, which can be due to many things:

  • a retinal tear or detachment
  • a posterior vitreous detachment (common)
  • migraine headaches (common)
  • rapid eye movements (very common)
  • retinal infections or inflammations (rare)
  • central nervous system disorders (rare)

If you see any flashes of light it is very important to see your eye doctor right away to make sure you don’t have a retinal tear or detachment; if left untreated they can result in vision loss. 

If you have any concerns about your vision, you can make an appointment with Student Health Optometry Services – we’re happy to check you out.

Tia Tucker, OPT IV (Ohio State College of Optometry)

Julia Geldis, OD (Staff Optometris, SHS)

Keep your eyes safe while playing sports!

I do not feel right letting April pass by without discussing sports eye safety. That’s correct, fellow Buckeyes – April is Sports Eye Safety Month! I know most of you have probably been celebrating this fact all month long by walking around in your favorite safety goggles, but for those of you who haven’t, this blog is for you!

Over 40,000 people a year suffer eye injuries while playing sports. The biggest culprits are: basketball, baseball, softball, lacrosse, hockey, tennis, soccer, volleyball, water polo, football, air rifle, paintball, boxing, martial arts, cricket, squash, racquetball, fencing, badminton, fishing and golf.

Sports-related eye injuries include corneal abrasions, orbital bone (“eye socket”) fractures, ocular inflammation, and retinal injuries (tears, holes or detachments). Prevent Blindness America offers the following tips to avoid sports eye injuries:

  • Wear proper safety goggles (polycarbonate protectors) for racquet sports or basketball.
  • Use batting helmets with polycarbonate face shields for baseball.
  • Use helmets and face shields approved by the U.S. Amateur Hockey Association when playing hockey.
  • Know that regular glasses don’t provide enough protection.

Check out the website for more tips, including information on choosing and buying appropriate sports eye protection.

If you experience an eye injury, seek care immediately with your eye care provider or feel free to schedule an appointment with Optometry Services at the Wilce Student Center.

Julia Geldis, OD (staff optometrist, OSU SHS)

1. Vinger PF. A practical guide for sports eye protection. Phys Sports Med. 2000 Jun; 28(6):49-69.

A stigma-WHAT?

click to enlarge

Have you ever been told you have astigmatism at your eye exam? And have you ever wondered what the heck astigmatism actually is? Well, allow me to bring this very common condition into focus for you.

Astigmatism is a condition in which the light rays that enter the eye do not focus at the same point on the retina, or the back surface of the eye. This results in a blurry image, which may cause you headaches and eyestrain. The light rays may scatter due to the curvature of the cornea, which is the clear front surface of the eyeball, or as they pass through the intraocular lens inside the eye. Thankfully, having astigmatism does not mean you have some scary eye disease! It is actually considered to be a part of your refractive error – the prescription you get for glasses or contact lenses.  

A person can have astigmatism while also being near-sighted or far-sighted. It may be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery. If you have been experiencing blurry vision, headaches or eyestrain, please feel free to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive vision exam at our Optometry Services at The Wilce Student Health Center. To learn a little more about astigmatism, check out the information and video posted on the American Optometric Association’s website.

Julia Geldis, OD (Student Health Services)

Is it OK to sleep in my contact lenses?

Take 'em out every day!

Q: Is it OK to sleep in my contact lenses? What if they are a “Night & Day” brand?

A: Even though there are particular designs of lenses that are approved for “extended wear” (the industry term for overnight wear), it is very important to have your eyes examined to ensure that they would be safe for wearing lenses overnight.

The cornea (the clear, outermost layer covering the colored part of the eye) has no blood vessels so it gets all of its oxygen from the outside environment. Even though contact lenses let some oxygen pass through to your cornea, they filter out a significant amount so wearing lenses for a long period doesn’t let your cornea “breathe”. This can lead to significant degrees of inflammation, irritation, redness, and discomfort. 

Additionally, nighttime lens removal, cleaning and soaking in a disinfecting solution (NOT JUST SALINE) is an essential step to maintain adequate eye health for contact lens wearers. This overnight soak removes deposits and neutralizes bacteria and viruses that build up on the lens throughout the day. So, when you wear lenses overnight, they are often contaminated with bacteria that increase the risk of infection. This can lead to a potentially serious disorder called a corneal ulcer, which can lead to blindness.

Because of these serious consequences, we recommend that you only wear your lenses overnight under the guidance of an eye doctor. However, we realize that not all overnight wear of contacts is planned. If you think there is a chance that you might be sleeping in your lenses, stick a lens case in your pocket or purse. If you do forget to take out your lenses, be sure to consult your eye doctor if you experience any redness, discharge, pain, light sensitivity, or reduced vision. Even if you don’t have any of these symptoms, it might be a good idea to wear glasses the next day to give your eyes a chance to “breathe.”

The staff of Ohio State Student Health Optometry Services is always happy to see you about your eye safety concerns.  We’re here to protect your sight and keep your eyes healthy!

Adam Brandeberry, Med IV (OSU College of Medicine and Public Health)

Gregory J. Nixon O.D., F.A.A.O. (Associate Professor of Clinical Optometry, OSU College of Optometry and Student Health Services)