The cornea is the clear tissue that covers the front of the eye. It projects the iris and pupil and works with the lens to focus light onto the retina. If you wear contact lenses, they are positioned on the cornea, floating on a thin layer of tears. Like any part of the body things can go wrong with the cornea. Here are just a few examples of conditions that can affect the cornea, including corneal disease and eye infection.
Just like other parts of the body, the cornea can become inflamed – this condition is known as keratitis. Keratitis falls into two main categories: Non infectious and infectious. Non infectious keratitis is usually caused by an injury to the cornea and should resolve quickly on its own. Sensible precautions should minimise the risk of injury – for example make sure you use safety goggles if there is a risk of flying debris or if you are working with chemicals.
Infectious keratitis is also known under the general term, eye infection and may be due to the presence of one of a variety of microorganisms including virus, fungi and bacteria. Symptoms of eye infection can include red eye, pain, discharge and sensitivity to light.
Most of us have experienced allergic responses that affect our eyes. When exposed to pollen or another similar trigger, our eyes can become red, itchy and watery. Treatment with oral or topical antihistamines and bathing the eye with specialised eye wash can help stop symptoms in their tracks.
This is an uncomfortable condition in which the eye does not produce enough tears to lubricate the surface of the cornea. Symptoms range from a scratching sensation, to pain and discharge from the eye. Treatments vary according to the likely cause. For example, dry eye may be a side effect of medication that you are taking, so your prescription will need to be reviewed. Or, the cause may be unknown, in which case it can be treated with medication such as lifitegrast.
Prevention of corneal disease and eye infection
There are several things you can do to reduce the risk of developing corneal disease or eye infection:
• If you wear contact lenses, ensure that you look after them properly. Wash your hands before handling and keep your products are sterile. Replace your lenses every 3-6 months.
• If you have an infection on your face, such as a spot or cold sore, to avoid inadvertently infecting your eyes, avoid touching them unless you have first washed your hands. In general, it is good practice to avoid touching your face and eyes unless you have washed your hands.
• If you live with someone with an active eye infection, pay particular attention to hand hygiene and consider using antibacterial products to clean communal areas. To avoid spreading the infection, keep towels, face cloths and bedding separate until the condition has cleared up.
• Do not share with other people, eye drops, eye medicines and contact lens accessories such as cleaning solutions.
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