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 dulyhealthandcare.com/services/ophthalmology/.