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Embarrassing eye conditions to watch out for

You know it's important to get regular vision exams, but did you know it's a must to treat conditions like sties and eye infections right away—not to mention consistently? You may not think it's necessary to go to the doctor for red, irritated, or burning eyes, but these could be signs of a treatable condition. Instead of ignoring unsightly and sometimes embarrassing eye conditions, be sure to find out everything you can about caring for your eyes at home—and to know when it's time to head for the eye doctor.

Many patients avoid seeing the eye doctor because they're either embarrassed about their eye condition or they think it's not treatable. Mark Lipton, OD, a VSP doctor at Beach Eye Care in Virginia Beach, VA, describes some common eye conditions and gives these tips for how to best deal with them:

Sties

A sty is a tender, pimple-like bump that forms along the edge of the eyelid. The bump is a result of infection caused by bacteria buildup in the glands of the eyelids. Sties (hordeola) can last about a week, but a warm compress can help ease the discomfort. Don't try to squeeze or pop the sty—this may make it worse. Sties are usually indicators of a chronic increase of normal bacteria that can be controlled by washing eyelids or using antibiotic drops. Visit your VSP doctor for prompt treatment and resolution of your discomfort.

Conjunctivitis

Red, itchy, and watery eyes could be signs of conjunctivitis—also called pink eye. Conjunctivitis is an inflammation that causes the lining of the eye to become red, swollen, and painful. It can be caused by a virus or by bacteria and lasts about seven to ten days. Allergies, dry eyes, and exposure to chemicals or smoke can also cause this inflammation. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious, so if you suspect you have it, avoid contact with others and see your VSP eye doctor right away.

Blepharitis

Rubbing your eyes with dirty hands or going to bed without removing eye makeup can cause excessive growth of ordinary bacteria, creating inflammation of the eyelids and an uncomfortable condition called blepharitis. Symptoms include red, blurry, itchy eyes and eyelids, and a feeling that something's constantly in the eye.

While there's no cure for blepharitis, the worst symptoms are fairly easy to control. Place a warm, wet washcloth on your eyes at night for soothing relief. And control bacteria buildup by gently washing your eyelids each day with a diluted mixture of hypoallergenic baby shampoo and warm water. Gently rub your eyelids with a soft washcloth.

Reduce Your Risk

You can't always prevent eye infections, but Dr. Lipton recommends reducing your risk by following a few simple rules:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, especially if your hands aren't clean.
  • Toss out old makeup, and replace makeup and applicators right away if you develop an eye infection.
  • Never share cosmetics with other people.
  • Wash off your eye makeup before going to bed.
  • Avoid cigarette smoke.
  • Always carefully clean and store your contacts.