Surprising Health Conditions That Impact Your Eyes

From Sun Dam­age to Cel­luli­tis, How to Keep Your Eyes Healthy

Your eyes play an impor­tant role in your over­all health, but are often over­looked until a prob­lem occurs. Just like oth­er parts of your body, when not prop­er­ly cared for, your eyes can devel­op a vari­ety of con­di­tions includ­ing arthri­tis, cel­luli­tis or sun­burn. Board-cer­ti­fied oph­thal­mol­o­gist, Lisa Wohl, MD, shares some of the sur­pris­ing con­di­tions that can impact your eyes and what you can do to keep your eyes healthy.

Sun Dam­age and Your Eyes

Your eyes can become dam­aged from harm­ful UV rays, just like your skin. Pro­longed expo­sure to UV rays can lead to a painful con­di­tion called pho­tok­er­ati­tis, or inflam­ma­tion of your cornea (the clear cov­er­ing on the front of your eye).

Pho­tok­er­ati­tis can cause a vari­ety of symp­toms includ­ing red­ness, tear­ing, eye pain that may feel like you have sand in your eyes, swelling or blurred vision. While the sun­burn will often resolve on its own with­in a few days, chron­ic or pro­longed expo­sure to UV rays can increase your risk of devel­op­ing cataracts, eye­lid can­cer or mac­u­lar degen­er­a­tion in the future.

You can pre­vent UV dam­age to your eyes by wear­ing sun­glass­es and oth­er pro­tec­tive eye­wear when­ev­er you spend time out­doors. This includes win­ter activ­i­ties like ski­ing, as UV rays can reflect off the snow the same way they reflect off of water. If you think you may have pho­tok­er­ati­tis, remove con­tact lens­es right away and avoid rub­bing your eyes or apply­ing make­up to your eye area to pre­vent fur­ther irri­ta­tion while they are heal­ing. An oph­thal­mol­o­gist can pre­scribe med­ica­tions to pro­vide addi­tion­al symp­tom relief.

Arthri­tis and Your Eyes

Rheuma­toid arthri­tis (RA) is a chron­ic inflam­ma­to­ry con­di­tion that typ­i­cal­ly affects your joints, but can devel­op in oth­er areas of your body, includ­ing your eyes. Inflam­ma­tion caused by RA can spread to the con­junc­ti­val tis­sue found on the whites of your eyes (scle­ra) and caus­es red­ness and dis­com­fort. You may also expe­ri­ence chron­ic dry eyes, which may be a symp­tom of Sjo­gren’s syn­drome, an autoim­mune dis­or­der linked to RA. If you expe­ri­ence chron­ic dry eyes, speak with an oph­thal­mol­o­gist about the treat­ment options avail­able. Chron­ic dry eyes are more prone to infec­tion and when left untreat­ed, can dam­age your cornea.

If you have been diag­nosed with RA and begin to expe­ri­ence eye pain, vision changes or oth­er eye con­cerns, you should con­sult with an ophthalmologist.

Cel­luli­tis of the Eye

Cel­luli­tis is a com­mon and poten­tial­ly seri­ous bac­te­r­i­al infec­tion of the skin. Cel­luli­tis typ­i­cal­ly devel­ops in your legs but can affect oth­er areas of your body includ­ing your face, arms and even your eyes. Cel­luli­tis in the eyes is referred to as orbital cel­luli­tis and impacts the soft tis­sue in your eye sock­et. Orbital cel­luli­tis is seri­ous and should be treat­ed imme­di­ate­ly, as it can lead to vision loss or oth­er life-threat­en­ing com­pli­ca­tions. It most often occurs when an infec­tion or inflam­ma­tion in your sinus­es or minor infec­tions of the eye­lids progress and spread. Less com­mon caus­es include eye injury or when a for­eign object becomes trapped in your eye.

Symp­toms of orbital cel­luli­tis include eye pain, dif­fi­cul­ty open­ing or mov­ing your eye, swelling, impaired vision and/​or a for­ward dis­place­ment of your eye. 

If you are expe­ri­enc­ing symp­toms of orbital cel­luli­tis, you should seek med­ical atten­tion imme­di­ate­ly to pre­vent more seri­ous com­pli­ca­tions from developing.

It is impor­tant to care for your eyes as you would oth­er areas of your body. Get­ting an annu­al eye exam and inform­ing your oph­thal­mol­o­gist about any changes with your eyes or vision will help keep your eyes healthy and main­tain good over­all health. To learn more about our oph­thal­mol­o­gists or to sched­ule an appoint­ment, vis­it duly​healthand​care​.com/​s​e​r​v​i​c​e​s​/​o​p​h​t​h​a​l​m​o​logy/.

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  • Prior to joining DMG, I served as Medical Director of the Wohl Eye Center for 25 years. Throughout my career, I have always strived to provide compassionate, personalized high-quality care and am devoted to putting the needs of my patients first. I try to treat every patient as if they were my own mother, which I call the "Mom Test".