Contact lenses have helped many people see. But their improper use can lead to a serious eye disease called keratitis.
Keratitis is the inflammation of the comea (the clear central portion of the eye). It affects both sexes and can occur in all ages.
Causes include a bacterial, viral or fungal infection, insufficient tear formation which dries the eye, a foreign object in the eye (traumatic keratitis), overuse of contact lenses, syphilis (interstitial keratitis), intense light, vitamin A deficiency, or an allergy to eye cosmetics, air pollution, dust, molds or yeast.
“There are many types and causes of keratitis. Keratitis occurs in both children and adults. Organisms cannot generally invade an intact, healthy cornea. However, certain conditions can allow an infection to occur. For example, a scratch can leave the cornea open to infection. A very dry eye can also decrease the cornea’s protective mechanisms,” explained Maureen Haggerty in the “Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine.”
The signs and symptoms of keratitis are eye pain, photophobia (sensitivity to light), and tears. The risk of contracting the disease increases with poor nutrition, lowered resistance to disease, and viral infections in the body.
“The patient experiences pain in the eyeball and the feeling that something is in the eye with heavy tearing, redness, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision. The comea, which is usually clear, becomes cloudy. A colored spot may appear on the eyeball. This is a medical emergency! An ophthalmologist should be consulted immediately,” said Dr. Raphael M. Klapper, a diplomate of the Board of Ophthalmology, in Funk & Wagnall’s “Family Medical Guide.”
Untreated, the disease can lead to glaucoma, ulceration of the cornea and vision loss. Most types of keratitis, however, can be treated with early diagnosis. An ophthalmologist may prescribe antibiotic or antiviral eye drops and ointments. He may also ask you to wear an eye patch on the affected eye. For severe cases, a corneal transplant might help.
“Don’t treat any eye inflammation without consulting your doctor. Don’t use non-prescription eye drops containing topical corticosteroids. These may worsen the condition or cause eyeball perforation,” warned Dr. H. Winter Griffith, a fellow of the American Academy of Family Practice.
To prevent keratitis, here are some measures lifted from Griffith’s book, “The Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness & Surgery:”
o Wear protective glasses if your work involves eye hazards.
o Eat a well-balanced diet that contains sufficient vitamin A or take multiple-vitamin supplements containing vitamin A.
“Systematic keratitis can be avoided, of course, by proper treatment of the underlying disease. To prevent the form of keratitis that results from the embedding of a foreign object in the eye, the prompt removal of that object is, of course, imperative. To remove a foreign object from the eye, a person should blink frequently. ‘Sometimes a flow of tears will dislodge the object. If it cannot be dislodged within a short period of time, seeking help from a relative or local pharmacist can be dangerous; only an ophthalmologist can render proper aid,” Klapper said.
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Sharon Bell is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premier online news magazine