Q: What is an eye infection? Are eye infections dangerous?
A: The better question is what causes a pink eye. It could be allergies, a viral infection, a bacterial infection, a fungal infection, dry eyes, foreign body or any other irritation. Some of these are benign, others are damaging or contagious. That is why there is no one drop that fixes all pink eyes, in fact some drops make certain pink eyes worse. The best thing to do is see an Optometrist who has a microscope, not your PCP or urgent care. They will be able to tell what is causing the pink eye and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Q: What should I do if I spill chemicals in my eye? What should I do if I get sand, metal, or wood, in my eyes? I spilled some chemical in my eye, should I remove my contacts or leave them in? I spilled a chemical in my eye, what should I do?
A: You should immediately wash the eye(s) out. If you’re at work, find the eyewash station or get to the bathroom. If you’re home, jump in the shower and let the water wash out your eye(s) for at least fifteen minutes. If you are wearing contact lenses at the time, they can help protect the eye some but they should be removed before you start the eye wash. Then call an Optometrist so they can assess any damage and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Q: I am seeing spots or floating colors suddenly?
A: Most new spots are caused by a break up of the jelly (vitreous) inside the eye, which is a benign occurrence. However, spots or floaters are also a symptom of more significant eye problems like retinal tears, holes, bleeding or detachments. So any new spots, floaters or flashing lights need to be evaluated by an Optometrist as soon as they start to rule out a retinal problem.
Q: Can my child go to school with an eye infection?
A: The school nurse will usually not allow a child with an eye infection to go to school because of the risk of it being contagious. The best thing to do is have it evaluated by an Optometrist to determine what type of pink eye it is, begin treatment and determine if the child can go to school.
Q: I have sand stuck in my eye, is it dangerous? I have something stuck in my eye, how should I remove it?
A: The first thing to do is wash the eye out thoroughly as soon as possible. Afterwards, give it some time to see if the irritation has improved or changed. Even if it has improved, it would be best to get evaluated by an Optometrist to make sure there aren’t any residual foreign bodies or damage to the eye. Only an eye doctor has a microscope to properly evaluate this, not a PCP, ER or urgent care.
Q: I feel like I have dirt in my eye when I wear contact lenses, is that dangerous?
A: It’s normal to get something under a lens while you’re wearing it. You can try putting a drop of wetting drops in to wash it out. Another option would be something called a scleral swish where you look to the side, slide the contact off the front of your eye (the cornea) and onto the white part (the sclera). Then move it around a little before sliding back over the cornea. That will usually dislodge any matter under the lens. If you still feel something, remove the contact lens and give it a good cleaning (with solution, not water). If your eye is still bothering you, especially if it’s pink, you have discharge and/or you’re sensitive to light, then get to the Optometrist ASAP.
Q: My child scratched my eye…what should I do? Is a scratch on the eye dangerous?
A: The biggest potential issue when you scratch your eye is, if you don’t see an Optometrist for it, it won’t heal correctly and/or completely. If you don’t protect the area that is scratched, it gets re-irritated every time you blink, and doesn’t have the opportunity to heal. Back in the day, an eye doctor would put a big patch on the eye to stop you from blinking. Now, we use a “bandage” contact lens to protect the eye. This also allows you to put eyedrops in which helps the eye heal faster. Depending on the source of the scratch, sometimes it can turn into an infection, another reason to get checked out by an Optometrist.
Q: I got hit in the eye with a baseball, is that dangerous for my vision? Should I visit an eye doctor if I got a black eye? I have pain in my eye after getting a black eye, should I visit the emergency room or an eye doctor?
A: Any whack to the eye should be evaluated by an Optometrist, whether it caused a black eye or not. Sometimes the eye can sustain damage, for example a broken orbital bone, damage to the front of the eye, a retinal hole, tear, bleed or detachment, that might not cause any changes you would notice. But it could cause long term effects to your vision or eye health.
Q: I just lost my vision in one eye, should I visit the emergency room? My eye is bleeding, what should I do? I am seeing double, should I go to the eye doctor? I have severe pain in my eye, what do I do? I feel a lot of pressure behind my eye, what should I do?
A: You should never go to the emergency room for any eye emergency. The ER, urgent care or your PCP do not have the proper equipment to properly assess and diagnose the eyes. According to Florida law, all Optometrists have to be accessible 24 hours/day, 7 days/week so never hesitate to call us. Regardless, any significant change to your vision or eyes should be evaluated ASAP. Some causes are reversible, others are not, but usually time is of the essence. Bottom line, you know your eyes best. If there’s anything going on that doesn’t seem right, you should get it checked out. Don’t let it fester.
Q: What is a stye? Are Styes dangerous? Do I need to visit an optometrist if I have a pimple or bump in my eye?
A: The medical term for stye is hordeolum. There are gland openings located behind the eyelashes that release an oily substance that becomes part of the tear film. Sometimes a gland will become blocked and becomes infected. That is a hordeolum or stye. You will have a painful-to- the-touch, red and swollen lump in your eyelid. There’s a small piece of cartilage (semi-hard tissue like in your ear) in each eyelid. If the infection develops in front of the cartilage, that is called an external hordeolum and usually assumes the form of a pimple, with a whitehead.
If the infection forms behind the cartilage, that is called an internal hordeolum and you’ll get a lump with no whitehead. In either case, the best initial treatment is warm compresses, i.e., a washcloth soaked in warm to hot water on the lump with a little massage 5 minutes at a time as often as possible. The idea is to break up the blockage. The sooner you start the compresses, the better chance of dissolving the hordeolum.
Eyedrops or ointment typically don’t help because the infection is inside the lid, not the eye. You do not need to see the Optometrist to do this. Over time, If the lump stops being painful or it isn’t decreasing in size, you run the risk of the hordeolum turning into a chalazion. A chalazion is when the lump is filled with inflammatory instead of infectious material.
The best treatment for that is to see an ophthalmologist have the lump opened and emptied, or injected with a steroid. You don’t want to get to that point if you don’t have to. One other potential complication of a hordeolum is if the pain, redness and swelling spread to the rest of the lid or cheek then see an eye doctor ASAP because oral antibiotics may be needed.