Commonly Searched Questions About Eye Care
Search engines have become the fastest way to find out information on just about anything. Need to know what the exact speed of light is? Google it (it's 299 792 458 meters per second, by the way). Need to know what the definition of a word is? Google it. Because I'm obsessed about optometry and everything to do with eye care, I've taken the liberty of checking some of the most commonly searched questions on Google about eye care and have compiled some quick answers to them.
Want a more in-depth discussion about your eyes in particular? Book a remote appointment with me on my optom marketplace right here on Eyebou, where you can also shop for my personally recommended eye care.
Why are my eyes watering?
This is super common, so no surprise it’s top of the list of most Googled questions about eyes.
Our eyes can water for all reasons so let’s dive into the most common causes:
- Cold weather: You might find that your eyes water when you step outside in the winter time, or if you’re cycling in cold wind. Cold air interacting with the sensitive cornea at the front of the eyes can lead to excessive reflex tearing of the eyes known as epiphora. The only way to avoid this one is to live in a consistently warm environment!
- Allergies: Frustratingly, a lot of us experience watering eyes seasonally with hypersensitivity reactions to pollens, grass, dust etc. Taking antihistamine medication, orally or topically can help reduce symptoms. Alternatively, try to identify the allergen and avoid it.
- Dryness: This sounds odd, but it’s true that our eyes can water more when they’re dry. This happens if there’s a blockage, or if the eye is trying to combat dryness by creating more poor quality tears. Concentrate on consistent general hydration, as well as introducing an omega 3 supplement into your diet, consistent sleep and breaks from the screen.
- Blocked ducts: There may be a problem with your drainage system. Make sure you have any changes checked by your optometrist.
- Systemic condition: Bell's palsy, Sjogren's syndrome, chronic sinus infections, thyroid problems, and rheumatoid arthritis can all result in watering eyes.
- Medical treatment: Radiation, chemotherapy, and many oral medications can result in increased watering of the eyes. Consult with your doctor if you’ve developed increased watering since beginning a new medical treatment.
Why are my eyes bloodshot?
Sleepless nights, stress, and too many hours spent in front of our computers can cause inflammation of the tiny blood vessels on the whites of our eyes, making them appear red.
- Alcohol: Some people experience significant redness at the front of the eyes with alcohol consumption due to the reduced oxygen flow to the red blood cells making them clump together.
- Infection: Usually, if you have an eye infection, you’ll have more symptoms than just redness; your eyes might be weepy, or gloopy with discharge, uncomfortable, sensitive to light and your vision could be affected. All of these symptoms should be checked by your optometrist.
- Blepharitis: This inflammation of the eyelids can also lead to inflammation at the front of the eyes.
- Allergies: Allergic reactions can cause the small blood vessels at the front of the eye to swell, as well as many other symptoms.
- Glaucoma: Glaucoma occurs gradually over time in most cases, however in more acute forms (known as angle-closure glaucoma), the eye can become red & suddenly very painful, with vision loss, nausea and haloes around lights. This is sight threatening, and medical attention should be immediately sought in this case.
- Whitening eye drops: Please stay away from these! Using these drops can build up a resistance to their effects, and result in eyes being more red than when you begun using them.
- Burst blood vessels: These can look extremely dramatic, sometimes with the entire white of the eye turning bright red! However they appear worse than they are, and are essentially the same as a bruise, but just hypervisible. If you develop these commonly however, you should consult your doctor as you may have elevated blood pressure (causing the small blood vessels on the whites of the eyes to burst).
Why are my eyes sensitive to light?
We can all agree, this is a particularly uncomfortable symptom to experience - if you’ve developed this suddenly, make sure you see an optometrist about it urgently. Causes of photophobia (light sensitivity) include:
- Migraine: Approximately 80% of migraine sufferers experience sensitivity to light during an episode. Sometimes this happens with head pain, and sometimes in complete absence of it.
- Eye inflammation or injury: If your sensitivity to light is sudden onset, or new, and is coupled with pain/discomfort of the eye(s), prioritise seeing an optometrist urgently.
- Conjunctivitis: Also known as “pink eye” and usually requires antibiotic treatment to resolve it. Seek the help of an optometrist if you suspect you have conjunctivitis.
- Dry eyes: Not only can our eyes feel gritty and uncomfortable, but sensitivity to light can be an added frustrating symptom of dryness at the front of the eyes. Make sure to keep consistently hydrated and add an omega 3 supplement to your diet.
- Systemic conditions: IBS, fibromyalgia, measles and chronic fatigue syndrome have all been linked to symptoms of light sensitivity.
- Medications: A number of medications have “light sensitivity” noted as a possible side effect. If you’ve recently changed your medication, and are experiencing photophobia as a new symptom, please consult your doctor.
Why are my eyes puffy?
Yes. This is one of the most Googled questions about eyes. Puffiness happens when fluid builds up in and around the eyelids. Let’s dive into some of the reasons why this can happen:
- Allergies: Allergies are the main cause of “puffy” eyes. This can happen with both seasonal allergies and one off “contact” allergies, when you come into contact with something that causes the sensitive skin around your eyes to react.
- Eye infections: Not only can we have sore, gloopy or watery eyes with infections, we can also have swelling around our eyelids.
- Styes & Chalazions: When the glands around our eyelids become infected, they can develop stye’s and chalazions. Styes look more like a typical pimple with a white “head” along the lash line, whereas chalazions look like a lump in the eyelid.
- Grave’s disease: This is an autoimmune disorder linked to problems with the thyroid gland. Often with Grave’s disease, the eyes can appear to bulge forwards.
- Orbital Cellulitis: This is usually brought on by an inflammation of the sinus, and occurs much more commonly in children than in adults. Not only does it cause the eyes to become red, but the swelling around the eyes will be tender and painful and requires urgent medical attention.
- Fatigue, crying & dehydration: Don’t forget these! Not getting enough water or sleep, or crying and rubbing of the eyes can also lead to the eyelids becoming swollen and “puffy”.
Why are my eyes so dry?
This is an incredibly common issue, and often multifactorial. Essentially, the surface of the eye is not wet enough, and this leads to eye irritation and intermittently blurry vision. Some causes include:
- Dehydration: This is the biggest factor. Many of us are good at being hydrated some of the time, but when it come to remaining hydrated, the secret is consistency!
- Ageing: As we age, our tear production reduces, and is also impacted but the menopause, autoimmune disorders, and medications.
- Prolonged screen use: Frustratingly, we do not blink enough when we’re looking at screens for lengthy periods. This is a reflex, so you can’t simply decide to blink more. Try taking regular breaks.
- Diet: Our tears need plenty of omega 3 in our diet to stop from evaporating too quickly. If we don’t have a good diet, our tears can evaporate too quickly and our vision can become intermittently blurry throughout the day.
- Systemic conditions: Lupus & Sjogren’s syndrome, as well as many medications relating to blood pressure and cancer treatment have been linked to contribution to dry eyes.
- Laser corrective surgery: Dryness is a common side effect of laser corrective surgery for your eyes. Do speak to your optometrist about it if you have any questions about this.
- Blepharitis: This is a condition relating to your eyelids and the function of the small glands within them, and is strongly associated with dryness.
- Poor air quality and central heating: Pollution and central heating can amplify dry eye symptoms.
- Time of day: Our eyes tend to be more dry towards the end of the day, especially if we haven’t been getting enough sleep or are dehydrated.
If you prefer to have your questions about eye care answered face-to-face, book a remote appointment with me and let's talk about your eyes!
This article was written by Mai Monavar, Eyebou's lead optometrist.