Conjunctivitis is the term used by medical eye doctors (ophthalmologists) to describe inflammation of the conjunctiva.
In ordinary terms, conjunctivitis is simply the most common cause of red or "pink" eye. The white of the eye (sclera) is covered by a thin, filmy membrane called the conjunctiva which produces mucus to coat and lubricate the surface of the eye. It normally has fine blood vessels within it, which can be seen on close inspection. When the conjunctiva becomes irritated or inflamed, the blood vessels which supply it enlarge and become much more prominent, and the eye turns red.
Many different sources of eye irritation can cause conjunctivitis, most common are infections, allergies, and environmental irritants. Because the conjunctiva is a simple tissue, it responds to all these stimuli in one way; it turns red.
Infectious causes of conjunctivitis include bacteria and viruses. Bacterial infections, such as staphylococcus or streptococcus, cause a red eye which is associated with considerable amounts of pus. If the amount of discharge from the eye is great, an acute infection is likely, and prompt consultation with an ophthalmologist is advisable. On the other hand, some bacterial infections are more chronic and may produce little or no discharge except for some mild crusting of the eyelashes in the morning.
Viruses are also common causes of conjunctivitis. Some viruses produce the familiar red eyes, sore throat, and runny nose of a common cold. Others may infect only one eye. Viral conjunctivitis usually produces a watery discharge and lasts from one to two weeks.
Infectious conjunctivitis, whether bacterial or viral, can be quite contagious, so contact with the patient’s tears through used handkerchiefs and towels should be avoided. Handwashing after contact with the patient helps to prevent spread of the infection.
The term "chalazion" (pronounced kah-la-ze-on) is derived from the Greek word meaning small lump. It refers to a cystic swelling with chronic inflammation in an eyelid. A gradual enlargement can be felt near the margin of the lid due to the swelling in one of the eyelid oil glands (meibomian). Occasionally, swelling of the entire eyelid may occur suddenly.
This condition is not to be confused with a "stye" which is an infection of a lash gland.
When the chalazion is small and without symptoms, it may disappear on its own. More often, it remains, and with increased size, may cause blurred vision by distorting the shape of the eye. Ordinarily, the inflammation is a reaction to the trapped oil secretions and is not caused by bacteria, although it may become secondarily infected by bacteria. Chalazions tend to "point" toward the inside of the eyelid.
Treatment may involve any one or combinations of the following:
- Antibiotic and/or steroid drops or injections
- Warm compresses, massage or expression of the glandular secretions
- Surgical incision or excision
Treatment is usually curative, although certain individuals are prone to recurrence. Recurrences at the same place may require a biopsy with pathological confirmation to make certain that a more serious problem does not exist.
Glaucoma is a condition in which the pressure of fluid in the eyeball is abnormally high - higher than the eye can tolerate over a long period of time. Most ophthalmologists agree that when pressure in the eye - referred to as intraocular pressure - is higher than normal, the risk of pressure-related damage significantly increases.
Glaucoma is caused by a buildup of the fluid - aqueous humor - that circulates within the eye. This buildup occurs because too much fluid is formed or because the channel through which the fluid normally drains - the Canal of Schlemm - is blocked. Since new fluid continues to enter the eye, joining the fluid already there, the pressure continues to rise.