This is a very common condition affecting all age groups. It is caused by inflammation and infection of the eyelid margins caused by a build up of skin scales and secretions at the base of the eye lashes. This is an ideal environment for the bacteria living on our skin. The resulting inflammation causes many and varied symptoms usually described as itching, burning, dry, tired eyes. The eyes may become red.
Within the eyelid are important glands which provide the quality and stability to the tear film on the front of the eye. If these glands are not working the tears will become unstable and evaporate quickly causing dry eye. This is often associated with occasional watering as the body tries to correct things by producing more aqueous tears.
Treatment consists of daily lid scrubs. This can be done either with wipes available from optometrists or by using a cotton bud moistened with dilute baby shampoo or bicarbonate of soda. At first this should be performed at least daily. Frequency can be reduced depending on the improvement in symptoms
Tear supplements available from the chemist or your GP will also provide relief from dry eye.
Occasionally it will be necessary to prescribe an anti-inflammatory and antibiotic drop or ointment to settle the acute inflammation.
For more information see blepharitis
Flashes of light or floaters are common in people over the age of 65 or in people with myopia (short sight). Floaters can look like spots, soot, spiders, cobwebs or threads. Usually they do not lead to any more serious problem and no treatment is necessary.
The back part of the eye is filled with a ball of jelly-like material called the vitreous. With age this jelly becomes separated from the retina lining the inside of the eye. This is known as vitreous detachment. In the majority of people this is an innocent ageing process with no damage to the retina. The vitreous can not become or be reattached.
The flashes will normally improve and disappear in about six weeks. The floaters will tend to stay the same or often get better. Although the floaters can persist they will often become less troublesome with time.
In a small minority of people the collapse of the vitreous jelly tears the retina lining the eye and this can lead to retinal detachment. If when the patient is examined there is a tear this can often be treated simply with laser. If the retina becomes detached surgery is usually required.
If you have any sudden loss of vision, a curtain or shadow over the eye or an increase in floaters it is important to attend your optometrist or an eye specialist as soon as possible.
For more information see PVD