Summer is a great time to be active outdoors at the beach, camping, or at the park. What we often don’t consider is how our eyes could be affected by our activities in these environments. Pollen, dust, smoke, and chlorine from pools are common causes of irritation, and dehydration and lack of sleep can also affect how our eyes feel. It’s easy to forget how much we depend on our eyes for so many things. We make yearly eye appointments and take preventive measures for major eye diseases and conditions like glaucoma or cataracts, but in between these visits our eyes may experience discomfort such as itchiness, swelling, and redness. The causes of these symptoms can range from environmental factors, allergies, and infections. If you are experiencing any eye discomfort, it is always a good idea to consult with Dr. Feinerman to determine the cause and discuss treatment options. However, some sources of minor eye irritation are temporary and can be treated with simple home remedies.
Here are some common symptoms of irritation and quick tips to provide temporary relief:
1) Pink Eye — Also known as conjunctivitis, pink eye is an infection of the eye that produces a pink color on the whites of the eyes. Other symptoms include itching, burning, stinging, irritation, or light sensitivity. Non-contagious forms of pink eye are caused by irritants or allergens such as dust, smoke, or chlorine from pools. However, some forms of pink eye are contagious because they are caused by bacterial or viral infections spread by coughing and sneezing. Many children are affected by this contagious form of pink eye, and can be exposed to it while in school or day care facilities. Until you determine what is causing the problem, avoid rubbing your eyes to avoid making them itch more. Also make sure to wash your hands often to avoid re-infection. To sooth the itchiness, try closing your eyes and placing a cool, wet towel on your eyelids. Make sure that no one else handles the towels to prevent the infection from spreading.
2) Allergies — Although usually associated with spring, seasonal allergies can occur in the summer due to pollen and other irritants spread by wind. Pollen from weeds and grasses can travel for miles, and the higher the pollen concentration is in the air, the more severe allergies can be. Non-seasonal allergies have different causes that are usually related to a substance in the environment. In this case, the eyes are exposed to an allergen such as smoke, fumes, dust, mold, or cat dander and the body produces an immune reaction. The eyes usually start to itch and become red, watery, and puffy as your eyes try to flush out the irritant. This is another situation where a cold, wet compress will help soothe the itching and burning. You could also try taking an oral over-the-counter antihistamine. If your symptoms continue, give us a call at Feinerman Vision Center to make an appointment.
3) Puffy Eyes — Puffy eyes can result from allergies, stress, or eye fatigue. Swelling around the eyes is usually an indication of fluid buildup in the surrounding skin. It’s more noticeable around the eyes because the skin is thinnest in that area. Swelling can be caused by high salt consumption that results in fluid retention or allergies that can produce inflammation and swelling. Puffy eyes can also be the result of sinus problems, dehydration, stress, or lack of sleep. To help prevent puffy eyes, use eye drops to soothe allergy-related swelling; drink lots of water to avoid dehydration; or apply cucumber slices or chilled used tea bags over closed eyes. Reducing salt intake and eating potassium-rich foods like bananas can help prevent fluid buildup. Most importantly, get plenty of sleep to prevent fatigue and stress.