WHAT DOES OPHTHALMIA ACTUALLY MEAN?
It’s an inflammation of an eye, resulting in a congestion of eyeballs, eye-watering, heavy itching and burning, as well as an impression, as if sand grains were stuck under the eyelids. Bacteria-caused ophthalmia additionally results in a mucus and puss secretion. A developed infection causes blood vessels to overfill with blood, resulting in redness and swelling of the eye. Eye-watering is a result of the intensified activity of lacrimal and tarsal glands.
The conjunctiva is a thin film which lines both the inner side of the eyelids and the outer surface of the eyeball. The conjunctiva is very well innervated and thus sensitive, so an inflammation of this area is very irritating.
WHAT CAUSES OPHTHALMIA?
Ophthalmia can have different causes, such as infectious factors (bacteria, viruses, fungi), as well as non-infectious ones (physical or chemical irritation, allergies).
An allergic inflammation manifests itself in a burning and itching sensation and a presence of a watery secretion in the conjunctival sac. It occurs seasonally (often in the spring, when most of the plants start to produce pollen). You can also experience an allergic inflammation due to the hypersensitivity to cosmetics or locally applied medicines.
A reactive inflammation is caused by staying in a polluted room, high temperature, smoke, bright light or by exposing one’s eyes to heavily chlorinated water or sea water. However, it can also happen as a result of an uncontrolled sight defect, after many hours spent in front of a computer or due to the intolerance of contact lenses. It is accompanied by itching, burning and eye-watering.
An inflammation caused by the tears deficiency can occur when the body is not producing enough tears or their chemical composition is incorrect. In such situation an illness known as the dry eye syndrome can develop.
A bacterial inflammation is characterized by redness and swelling, as well as mucus and puss secretion.
A viral inflammation usually manifest itself in eye-watering, significant redness and a feeling, as if a foreign object got stuck under the eyelids. You can get infected by having contact with infected tears or other secretions. How do we treat particular types of ophthalmia? A viral infection can be transferred to the cornea, which makes treatment considerably more difficult. Symptoms will then include a strong pain and photophobia, which practically prevent you from opening your eyes.
A fungal infection often occurs after an antibiotic or steroid treatment. Symptoms are not particularly distinctive – they usually include discomfort and a slight pain.
A chlamydia-caused inflammation occurs rarely, usually after a visit to a swimming pool. It mainfests itself with an intensive redness of the conjunctiva, swelling and a mucus and puss secretion.
HOW DO WE TREAT PARTICULAR TYPES OF OPHTHALMIA?
All types of ophthalmia require taking care of the eyes – they should not be excessively exposed to strong light, water and pollen and you should restrict the time you spend working with a computer screen or reading; you should also give up makeup and contact lenses. Moreover, you should have enough sleep – permanent sleep deprivation also irritates the conjunctiva!
Apart from that, regular inflammations can be treated with eyedrops without preservatives which don’t cause allergies (their ingredients include an eyebright and a common marigold); bacterial and viral inflammations are treated with an antibiotic cream; allergic inflammations – with orally taken antihistamines and anti-inflammatories; and ophthalmia caused by the tears deficiency is treated with tear substitutes, so-called artificial tears, which moisturize the eyes.
WHAT IF DESPITE A TREATMENT THE SYMPTOMS DON’T GO AWAY?
You need to see a specialist immediately – red eyes can be a symptom of keratitis, iritis or even of an acute case of glaucoma.