What exactly is pink eye?

To start, there are a few different types of pink eye:

Pink eye related to bacterial eye infections can cause a lot of swelling and produce sticky green discharge, resulting in eyes that are often ‘glued’ shut in the morning. Bacterial eye infections are more commonly seen in contact lens wearers and can result from our skins own bacteria.

Pink eye related to viral infections is by far the most common cause, and is caused by the same virus that results in the common cold. Viral pink eye will usually result in a watery eye with little to no discharge, but may still be crusted shut in the morning. Viral pink eye is the most contagious of all pink eyes, which is why it hangs out in preschools, daycares and work environments.

Pink eye related to allergies is more common after coming in contact with allergens and is often associated with other physical symptoms like stuffy nose, itchy skin or swollen eyes. People often complain of itching and may want to rub their eyes.

Pink eye can also be related to some more serious eye conditions like scleritis, uveitis, or iritis. These conditions require more urgent care, and will generally not resolve on their own if left untreated.

Regardless of the cause of your pink eye, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis by your optometrist to ensure that the treatment matches the condition. Please don’t touch anyone until you see us, and we’ll let you know if you are contagious.

Please Note: Alberta Health Care now covers the cost of emergency eye care visits to your optometrists office – there is no charge to you as a patient. 

Is it okay to sleep in my contact lenses?

Unless you have specific contact lenses that are approved for overnight wear, it is NOT OKAY to sleep in your contact lenses!  When you sleep in them a few things happen: bacteria adhere to the lens surface and increase your risk of eye infection, your eyes dehydrate and the contact lens can cause small abrasions, and most commonly, your eye doesn't get enough oxygen (your closed eyelids when you are sleeping means that your cornea doesn't get as much oxygen as when your eyes are open).  When this happens, you can develop serious infections that can cause discomfort, light sensitivity, scarring and even blindness.

Related: What is the harm in extending the life of my contact lenses?

What is the harm in extending the life of my contact lenses?

Extending the life of your contact lenses is kind of like driving a car at 250 km per hour.  For a while, if everything goes smoothly, there is no indication of trouble.  However, if something starts to go wrong, it can go wrong in a major way very quickly. 

Some complications that can occur are:

  • Allergic Reaction – protein build-up on the lens can cause discomfort, itchiness, dry eyes and intolerance to contact lens wear.
  • Conjunctivitis – accumulated protein attracts bacteria which can easily lead to conjunctivitis.  Symptoms include redness, burning, itching, tearing, light sensitivity, blurred vision and mucous discharge.
  • Corneal Edema (swelling) – Extended contact lens wear decreases the oxygen supply to the cornea and can cause increased fluid in the cornea. It can cause blurred vision and halos around lights.
  • Neovascularization – The cornea normally doesn’t have any blood vessels. When it is deprived of oxygen (by over wearing contact lenses), the body responds by growing new blood vessels, hoping to increase oxygen to the cornea. This abnormal blood vessel growth can interfere with vision. The new vessels are also weak and can hemorrhage and cause blindness.
  • Corneal Abrasion/Corneal Ulcer – Again, due to the lack of oxygen, the surface cells on the cornea become weak and easily damaged.  Corneal abrasions or corneal ulcers can form causing very serious infection and complications that can lead to blindness.

These complications can be caused both by wearing a contact lens too long in a day (or overnight) or by not replacing your lenses according to your optometrist's recommendations.  Either way, the eye is subject to less oxygen and more irritation and bacterial growth.  The blurred vision, pain, light sensitivity and potential scarring can be greatly reduced or eliminated by responsible contact lens wear.  If any of these symptoms occur, remove your contact lenses immediately and get checked by your optometrist.

*Image found here

Vitamin C for Healthy Eyes

Vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid) is a major player in eye health. It maintains lens transparency, prevents cataracts, and fights against age-related macular degeneration. The retina needs to be surrounded by vitamin C to protect itself from free radicals and promote healing if damaged. Our bodies do not naturally create vitamin C when needed, so including this in your diet is a critical part of keeping your eyes (and virtually all cells in your body) functioning properly.

Excellent sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits, peppers, cantaloupe, tomatoes, and broccoli. There are many tasty vitamin C supplements available from the drug store, too.

*Image credits: broccoli, tomatoes, citrus fruits.

Eat your way to healthier eyes

You know the age-old idea of eating carrots to maintain healthy eyes? Well, there is a reason for it. Beta-carotene is an important anti-oxidant that keeps eyes working correctly, and happens to be responsible for the orange color of carrots and other produce. Beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A in your body which is used in the process of converting light into the actual images you see, and keeping your cornea moist. 

This antioxidant is easy to find: carrots, apricots, cantaloupes, peaches, blueberries, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, and most of the dark green leafy vegetables.

*photo credits: carrots, peaches, winter squashes.