We've all experienced a seemingly out-of-the-blue bout of red, itchy eyes or blurry vision, especially after spending long periods in front of our electronic devices.
Megan Goodman, a qualified optometrist and Health24's eye health expert, says there are various causes of eye irritations, and symptoms should never be ignored, and if the tips we describe here don't work, you should definitely see a specialist.
Tip: Don't miss our article on what the doctor looks for when he examines your eyes
The most common eye problems and what you can do to fix them:
1. BLURRY VISION
If your vision is blurred, it's likely due to dry eyes.
When your eyes are dry it causes inflammation in the cells of the eye. This is due to increased tear film evaporation and/or decreased tear production. This is a very common condition in females and those over the age of 40 (thought to be due to hormonal changes), as well as people who spend long periods in air-conditioned or heated environments.
DIY treatments for blurry vision caused by dry eyes: increasing fluid intake as well as decreasing exposure to air-conditioning are quick measures to relieve dry eye.
If you wear contact lenses, you can also give your eyes a break by not using them when you don't absolutely need them.
Preservative-free artificial tears will also help restore lubrication to the eye.
Also, avoiding spending long hours in front of your computer and take a break every 20 minutes. Computer users should also remember to look away from their screens from time to time.
Persistent blurry vision could also be a sign of cataracts, in which case you should see an ophthalmologist.
2. ITCHY EYES
Itchy eyes are most commonly caused by allergies or a hypersensitivity to something in your environment, such as pollen or a household pet. Itchy eyes can be accompanied by some redness and tearing as well as a runny or congested nose and sneezing.
DIY treatments for itchy eyes as a result of an allergy: the first step is to remove or reduce the allergen. Determine what is causing the possible irritation – for example, if you've just got a new pet and your eyes are suddenly itchy, don't let them sleep on your bed or sit on the couch.
Read: Steps to limit pet allergies
Spring is also the time when allergies increase. If you regularly suffer from hay fever, be prepared and take oral anti-histamines before symptoms start to appear. You can also take a look at our natural ways to manage hay fever.
Read: How to cope with seasonal allergies
Using lubricating, preservative-free eye drops can be soothing and also assist in reducing the amount of allergen, and you can use it many times during the course of the day.
Over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops can also be used for a limited period of time. Don't use eye drops that “whiten the eye“ as this is not fixing the problem, only hiding it.
3. RED EYES
There are many possible causes of red eyes. You could be over-tired or even have a growth on the eye. The possible causes and its treatments are listed below:
- Pterygium is a noncancerous growth of tissue that usually grows from the inner part of the eye. The growth often develops in people who live in a warm climate, so it's common in South Africans.
DIY treatments for Pterygium: using lubricating eye drops will help reduce redness and irritation, but if the growth starts to affect your vision, it is best to see a specialist.
- Wearing contact lenses can cause red eyes because they have a drying effect on the eye. Again, preservative free lubricating eye drops can offer some relief, but it's not a solution. If the problem persists or both eyes are suddenly or persistently red, head back to your optometrist.
Read our Q&A about contact lenses
- Subconjunctival haemorrhage is a sudden painless, redness in the white of the eye (conjunctiva) and it often occurs without you noticing it. A subconjunctival haemorrhage is due to a tiny blood vessel bursting. This can occur as a result of an episode of coughing or vomiting any obvious cause.
DIY treatments for subconjunctival haemorrhage: this usually requires no treatment and resolves spontaneously within 2-3 weeks. Using eye drops that whiten the eye will only delay the healing process. Just like when you have a bruise on your skin, the blood will slowly clear spontaneously. If these haemorrhages occur more frequently and do not resolve please see a specialist to determine the cause.
- Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye. Also known as pink eye, it can be allergic, viral or bacterial and is highly contagious.
DIY treatments for conjunctivitis: this is a tricky one to try treat at home as you need to know if it's viral or bacterial, and if it's the latter, you'll need antibiotic eye drops or ointment.
Read: How to deal with pink eye
- Blepharitis is very common in the elderly. It's inflammation of the eyelids that can cause dandruff-like scales on the eyelashes.
Possible DIY treatments for blepharitis: Good eyelid hygiene and a regular cleaning routine can control this. Face washing, using warm compresses to soak the eyelids as well as doing an eyelid scrub with some baby shampoo. If this does not improve the symptoms, prescription antibiotics may be required.
- Hordeoulum, which is more commonly known as a stye, is when the eyelid looks out of shape with a painful red swelling at the eyelid margin. This occurs due to an infection in one of the glands of the eyelid.
DIY treatments for hordeoulum/styes: warm soaks and compresses will speed up the eruption of the stye’s point and assist in drainage. Removing the eyelash that has turned in would also assist in speeding up the healing process. Be cautious of doing this yourself and consider that you may still need antibiotic eye drops if more styes form or if they don't resolve.
4. FLOATING OBJECTS IN THE EYE
- Floaters, medically known as “muscae volitantes” (fluttering flies), occur when the vitreous, which is the jelly at the back of the eye, starts to age and separates and can cause strand like pieces to become visible in the line of sight.
This process is normal and can occur earlier in some patients, e.g. in patients who are short sighted. They become more visible when one looks at a plain white wall and sees “worm“ like objects floating against the background.
DIY treatments for muscae volitantes: chances are they've always been there and you got so used to them that your brain simply blocked them out. But, if there is a sudden increase in floaters, or their appearance is accompanied by other symptoms like light flashes or a "curtain" in your vision, see your optometrist as soon as possible.
- Vitreous haemorrhage occurs when there is a bleed in the back of the eye. You would see dark objects and strands in your eyes. Don't ignore this and see a specialist asap.
Our eye doc warns that one can never be too cautious when it comes to your eyes, and when in doubt about the cause, rather consult your optometrist, ophthalmologist or GP than trying to fix it yourself.
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