Mar 05 2011

Eye Infections and Light Sensitivity: They are Connected

“Doctor, my eyes started bothering me yesterday and by night they started hurting. I woke up early in pain and now light really bothers me. It hurts!”

Patients come to the office everyday with a sudden infection of the eyes and often they complain of severe pain with light. There is a reason for that; but it may not be simple. The best way to get to the root of the problem is history such as: When did it start? Was it sudden or gradual? Have you been diagnosed with systemic disease such as arthritis, stomach problems, or infection? What do you do for a living? Were you doing something when you noticed the pain? Do you wear contact lenses? Have you been around anyone with an eye infection?

There are many more questions, but these serve as an example. If a person has been around others with an eye infection, then they may have acquired a virus and the virus may be severe enough to settle in deeply. The patient might have had something get into the eye that has later become infected. They may have a disease or infection of the body that is so severe, that it has spread to the eyes.

The one instrument that separates and eye doctor from a family practice doctor is the bio-microscope. It is called a slit lamp and allows a very detailed examination of the eye. There are many views of the clear part of the eye (cornea), Iris, lens, white of the eye (conjunctiva), and with the right tools, can be used to look inside the eye.

When the eye is inflamed, the doctor uses the microscope (slit lamp) to look for that inflammation. The lights are turned low and a slit beam is used to determine what is causing the infection. The presence of white blood cells and a “smokey” appearance means that the eye is really irritated at a deep level. This finding allows a more accurate diagnosis to be made.

When the inner lining of the eye (the uvea) is inflamed, it is called “uveitis.” If the iris is inflamed it is called “iritis.” The “itis” is a Greek word signifying tender and inflamed. That is why the light hurts so badly! The next short video is an example of what an eye that has been irritated for a long time.

Uveitis and Iritis usually are a result of something going on in the body. The inflammation seeps over to the eye and causes severe pain and sensitivity to light. This can be very serious. If the normal treatment for an infection or a short-term inflammation does not work, the patient is advised to be seen by an eye doctor. These cases are often sent to a specialist or sub-specialist, who’s job it is to find out why it is happening. The are sometimes very difficult to manage and must be watched carefully.

Remember, when it comes to the eyes, it is best to be treated by an eye doctor. The use of the slit lamp is very important in making the correct diagnosis and treatment recommendations. There are different types of eye disease specialists. Patients suffering from uveitis may need to be referred to an eye doctor who specializes in the treatment of Iritis and Uveitis ©.

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