Eye Health

Updated 20 May 2015

Treatment of eye disease

Correct diagnosis of an eye disease is essential before effective treatment can commence.


Most treatment of eye diseases is aimed at reducing inflammation, repairing traumatic injuries, and improving or saving eyesight.

Sometimes eye problems, such as a stye will resolve itself within a few days, but anything causing visual disturbances, or if there has been trauma to the eye, will require immediate medical attention.

The treatment of eye diseases fall into four main categories:

•    Medication (including home treatments and over-the-counter medicine)
•    Surgery
•    Prescription glasses or contact lenses
•    Treatment of systemic conditions affecting the eye

Read: Squint

Medication and treatments

Medication used for the treatment of eye problems are diverse. Here are some of the more regularly used medications and treatments:

•    Artificial tears for dry eyes
•    Over-the-counter eye drops to treat short-term eyestrain or scratchy eyes. Prescription eye drops are used to treat a wide variety of eye diseases, such as glaucoma (eye drops can lower the pressure in the eye).
•    Antibiotics to treat bacterial infections, such as bacterial conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis, the most common cause of an acute red eye, will not respond to antibiotics and will resolve itself within a week, according to the American Academy of Opthalmology. Bacterial infections in and around the eye, such as eyelid inflammation, can be treated with antibiotics or corticosteroids.
•    Corticosteroids can sometimes be used to try and prevent permanent damage to the eye, which could be the result of certain eye diseases, such as uveitis, according to the School of Medicine and Public Health of the niversity of Wisconsin-Madison. This also can relieve the discomfort caused by allergic conjunctivitis.
•    Antihistamines can relieve the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis
•    Some home remedies include cold compresses for a black eye and conjunctivitis. A warm compress will relieve the pain caused by a stye. Resting the eye and not rubbing it, as well as flushing it out with cool water are other home remedies for less serious eye problems.

Read: Conjunctivitis


Eye surgery is extremely delicate and most of it is aimed at reshaping the cornea, thereby correcting vision problems. This is a field in which there have been many developments in the past few years.

Refractive surgery, also known as vision correction surgery, can be used to treat both nearsightedness and farsightedness.

Corneal refractive surgery alters the curvature of the cornea to focus light more precisely on the retina, according to the Merck Manuals.

Successful eye surgery can eliminate the need for either glasses or contact lenses.

The Merck Manuals name the two most common refractive surgery procedures as LASIK (Laser in Situ Keratomileusis) and photorefractive surgery. They are both used to treat farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism. LASIK has a shorter recovery period than photorefractive surgery.

Lens implants (Phakic Introcular Lenses or IOLs) can be done to treat patients for farsightedness if laser surgery is not an option.
Segments of biocompatible plastic can also be inserted into the edge of the cornea to treat farsightedness.

Surgery is the only way to remove cataracts, a condition in which the lens of the eye becomes increasingly opaque owing to pigment deposited in it. Glaucoma surgery is aimed at reducing the build-up of intraocular pressure. Both of these procedures are aimed at saving eyesight as far as possible and restoring it, in the case of the removal of cataracts. Unfortunately, vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible.

Refractive eye surgery has possible side effects, which include infection, overcorrection or undercorrection, corneal haze or regression.

Eye surgery can also be necessary to repair the eye after trauma, or to remove an object from the eye.

Read: Macular degeneration

Glasses and contact lenses

Lenses have been used for over 800 years to help improve eyesight. Initially, people used single eyeglasses, but this developed into a double frame containing lenses worn in front of both eyes simultaneously. Left and right lenses can differ according to the wearer’s requirements. Bifocals, trifocals and glasses with adjustable focus followed.

And then in the latter part of the twentieth century, the use of contact lenses became widespread, especially with the advent of the first soft contact lenses in 1971, according to the timeline on the site of GP contact lenses. Contact lenses are small plastic discs worn in the eye. These are shaped to correct eyesight problems.

Both glasses and contact lenses help to bend light rays and focus an image more sharply on your retina, improving your eyesight, by enabling your brain to receive a clearer picture of what you are observing.

Read: Preventing damage to your eyes

Treating conditions that cause eye problems

If someone is diabetic, or has multiple sclerosis, or has certain forms of arthritis, the eyes could be one of the affected organs. It is essential that these conditions be carefully monitored and controlled, as poor vision or loss of vision can be the result of poorly managed systemic diseases.

Diabetic retinopathy, for instance, is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

While an eye test once every two years is recommended for people who do not have vision problems, anyone who has a condition which affects their eyesight, should speak to their ophthalmologist about how often they need to have their eyes tested.

Read More:

What is eye disease?

Symptoms of eye disease

Causes of eye disease

Image: Surgeons working on patients eye from Shutterstock


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg and is currently practising at Tygerberg Academic Hospital in Cape Town. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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