Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is an infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva, the membrane that lines the eyelid and covers the white part of the eyeball. The inflammation affects the blood vessels in the eye and gives the eye a pink or red appearance.
Pink eye can be caused by either a bacterial or viral infection, an allergic reaction, a foreign object in the eye or a blocked tear duct. Pink eye can be contagious, so diagnosis and proper treatment is important.
The most common symptoms of pink eye may include:
- Redness in one or both eyes
- Itchiness in one or both eyes
- A discharge that may become crusty overnight
- Excessive tearing
- A feeling of gritiness in the eye
Treatment for pink eye depends on the type of conjunctivitis. Treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis may include a prescription for antibiotic eyedrops or ointment. There is no treatment for viral conjunctivitis and the condition will eventually ease over the course of time. If the source of the viral conjunctivitis is the herpes simplex virus, the doctor will determine if antiviral medication should be used. Allergic conjunctivitis can be treated with eyedrops for people with allergies but it first must be determined if allergies are the cause.
Corneal dystrophies describe a number of eye conditions in which abnormal material builds up on the cornea. When these substances accumulate too greatly, light cannot be focused properly, which affects images being processed by the brain. Most corneal dystrophies are inherited and involve both eyes. Some patients experience no symptoms at all, while others face extensive vision loss, pain, light sensitivity or a scratchy feeling as if a particle is in the eye.
There are more than 20 different types of corneal dystrophies. Some of the most common ones are Fuchs’ dystrophy, keratoconus and lattice dystrophy. The majority of corneal dystrophies progress slowly, starting in one layer of the cornea and sometimes advancing to other layers over time.
Treatment of corneal dystrophies will depend on the condition diagnosed and the severity of its symptoms. In many cases, conservative measures will be initially used, such as wearing special contact lenses that can protect the cornea. For some patients with corneal dystrophies, a corneal transplant may eventually become necessary to restore vision.
A corneal ulcer is a sore that forms on the surface of the cornea, the clear portion of the eye. They are typically the result of a bacterial, viral or fungal infection. Other possible causes may be a scratch on the cornea, a dry eye disorder, conditions that produce inflammation and more. Corneal ulcers are more common in those who wear contact lenses, particularly when they are not removed at night or strict hygiene practices are not followed.
Corneal ulcers can be very painful and may produce such symptoms as blurred vision, light sensitivity, tearing, redness, itching and discharge. To diagnose a corneal ulcer, your doctor will perform an examination with a slit lamp, and may use a fluorescein stain to make the ulcer more visible. A sample of the ulcer tissue may be taken and other testing may be conducted to analyze its cause.
The treatment for a corneal ulcer will vary depending on its underlying cause. Antibiotic eye drops are usually very effective at resolving an infection. Eye drops containing corticosteroids may also be necessary to alleviate swelling. In the most severe cases, a corneal transplant surgery may be needed. Most patients who are treated for a corneal ulcer have no complications or long-term vision problems. If it goes untreated, however, the corneal ulcer can result in scarring and permanent vision loss.
A corneal guttata is a bump that forms within the endothelial cells, which make up the inner cell layer of the cornea. The presence of these guttae is typically a sign of Fuch’s dystrophy. Greater amounts of guttae in existence on the cornea generally indicates a further the progression of the disease.
Fuchs’ dystrophy is an inherited eye disease that does not affect people until later in life, usually between the ages of 50 and 60, resulting in severe visual impairment and pain. Fuchs’ dystrophy is more common in women than men and affects both eyes.
The endothelial layer lines the back part of the cornea. The cells of the endothelial layer remove excess fluid from the stroma, the largest part of the cornea composed of water and collagen. The endothelial layer helps maintain the thinness and clarity of the cornea. When the endothelial layer deteriorates fluid begins to build up in the cornea resulting in distorted vision and swelling. Once cells are lost, they do not grow back.
Corneal guttae are found during an examination with a slit lamp, an optical microscope that can view the inner cornea. Treatment revolves around the management of Fuch’s dystrophy to preserve vision and involves the removal of excess fluid from the eyes. In more severe cases, a corneal transplant may be required.