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Eye Emergencies

Pink Eye? It Could Be Coronavirus

How to prevent conjunctivitis and protect your eyes

When you have a virus, especially one that causes a hacking cough, runny nose, and other symptoms of a common cold or flu, it’s typical for your eyes to also get puffy and red. You may be suffering from viral conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye.

How do viruses get into your eyes?

It’s rather simple. When you’re sick, you can easily transfer viruses to your eyes by sneezing, coughing into your hands, or blowing your nose – and then touching the area around your eye.

The coronavirus – pink eye connection

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), doctors have discovered that COVID-19 can cause conjunctivitis. If you’re standing within six feet of an infected person, and they cough or sneeze, the virus can enter your eye. Alternatively, if someone sneezes and virus particles land on the shopping cart that you take and push around a store, and then you touch your eyes without washing your hands first – you’re giving the virus direct access.

However, despite the apparent ease with which coronavirus can infect eyes, the AAO reports that only about 1 – 3% of all patients with the virus contract pink eye.

Preventing pink eye

Like always, prevention is the most effective medicine! Eye care professionals recommend following these tips to help prevent getting viral conjunctivitis:

  • Wash your hands correctly

The CDC instructs people to wash their hands in accordance with these steps: wet your hands, turn off the tap, apply soap, lather and scrub for 20 seconds, turn on tap and rinse. Air dry your hands, use a disposable paper towel and discard it immediately, or use a clean (not shared) towel.

  • Keep your fingers away from your face

No rubbing or wiping your eyes! Even if you don’t feel any symptoms of coronavirus, it’s essential not to touch any part of your face. To wipe away tears or remove makeup, use a clean tissue.

  • Don’t share your personal things

As generous as you may feel about letting others use your personal items, now’s the time to keep things to yourself. For example, the CDC recommends not sharing eye drops, makeup, makeup brushes, contact lenses cases, pillowcases, or towels. Pink eye is highly contagious.

  • Consider wearing glasses instead of contacts

While there’s currently no evidence to prove that wearing contacts raises your risks of contracting the novel coronavirus, there’s some evidence that shows you can get Covid-19 by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes. In general, contact lenses wearers touch their eyes more often than people who wear eyeglasses, so it may be smart to make a temporary switch from contact lenses to glasses. However, this is only a friendly recommendation and not a hard-and-fast rule. If you prefer to stick with wearing contacts, washing your hands thoroughly can help keep you and your eyes safe.

Treatment for conjunctivitis

Regardless of whether your pink eye is caused by coronavirus or a different virus, there is no treatment for viral conjunctivitis. Usually, it goes away on its own within one to two weeks.

To alleviate your painful symptoms, eye doctors recommend:

  • Taking an over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or any anti-inflammatory drug
  • Applying a warm compress on your eye for a few minutes; take care to use a clean wash cloth each time and for each eye
  • Use artificial tears (lubricating eye drops) to soothe your eye irritation; don’t touch the bottle tip to your eye

Are you sick and have pink eye symptoms?

Now is not the time to make a DIY diagnosis. Eye redness, even if you have a virus, doesn’t necessarily indicate that you have conjunctivitis. A wide range of other conditions can lead to the same symptoms. Contact an eye doctor near you for help to figure out what’s causing your eye pain. Don’t visit your eye care practice without calling for guidance first, because extra precautions must be taken with patients who may have COVID-19.

At Antoine Eye Care, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 314-375-2255 or book an appointment online to see one of our St. Louis eye doctors.

Want to Learn More? Read on!

Why Are Dilated Eye Exams So Important?

8 Ways to Protect Your Eyes at the Office

4 Eye Hygiene Practices That Reduce the Risk of Infection 

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Why You Shouldn’t Visit the ER for Eye Emergencies During COVID-19

On April 22, the American Optometric Association (AOA) urged patients with emergency eye care needs to get in touch with their local optometrist prior to seeking treatment in hospital emergency rooms. Doing so not only eases the burden on emergency departments but also helps prevent the spread of COVID-19.

What Is Considered an Eye Emergency?

Most eye-related conditions can be treated in an outpatient optometry office or clinic like our eye Care Clinic in St. Louis. Emergency eye care includes, but is not limited to, urgent clinical advice or intervention for eye injuries and conditions that entail a foreign object in the eye, chemical burns, a sudden change in vision, flashes and floaters (which might suggest a retinal detachment), contact lens discomfort, red eyes and any other problems or symptoms that may impact or interfere with daily activities.

Prioritizing Your Eye Care Needs During COVID-19

During the coronavirus outbreak, we have been going above and beyond to ensure that people are receiving the emergency eye care they need.

Patients should first contact Antoine Eye Care for guidance and potential treatment prior to heading to an overwhelmed hospital emergency room. Dr. Antoine can assess the level of care the patient needs—whether it’s telehealth or urgent care that requires a visit to the eye clinic or, in severe cases, even the emergency room.

This will ensure that patients get prompt treatment while allowing hospitals to conserve their resources for the current pandemic. In fact, research has shown that treating eye emergencies at eye doctors’ offices can potentially divert 1.4 million patients away from emergency rooms per year.

While we have closed our store for routine appointments, Antoine Eye Care at St. Louis continues to provide emergency care for those who need it. We’d like to reassure our patients that we are here to help with anyone’s emergency eye care requirements – for both for new and existing patients.

References:

https://www.visionmonday.com/eyecare/coronavirus-briefing/crisis-response-tactics/article/aoa-cautions-patients-against-avoidable-er-visits-for-primary-eyecare-services-during-covid19-pandemic/

Why You Shouldn’t Rub Your Eyes

Dry Eye Girl 640×350Though it may seem harmless, rubbing your eyes is something many of us do from time to time. Doing so feels good because it stimulates tear flow and eye lubrication, which offers relief for dry eyes and helps remove dust and other irritants. Furthermore, rubbing your eyes can be therapeutic, as pressing down on your eyeball stimulates the vagus nerve, which decreases your heart rate, thus relieving stress.

So why do eye doctors advise against rubbing your eyes? That’s because rubbing your eyes poses a threat, especially now, as COVID-19 can be spread through the eyes’ mucous membranes. Moreover, rubbing can potentially damage your eyes’ structure and vision.

Why is Rubbing Your Eyes Harmful?

  • Continuous eye rubbing in susceptible individuals can cause the cornea to thin and weaken, leading it to bulge forward and become more cone-like. This is known as keratoconus — a serious condition that can lead to distorted vision and ultimately the need for a corneal transplant or specialized contact lenses, such as scleral lenses.
  • If you have a foreign object in your eye, your natural instinct is likely to rub it in an attempt to remove the object. However, this can potentially cause more damage as the object can scratch the cornea. Instead, try flushing it out with saline solution or artificial tears.
  • From a hygienic perspective, it’s important to remember that your hands are covered in germs and bacteria. Therefore, sticking a finger that hasn’t been thoroughly washed with soap and water into your eyes can cause an infection, such as conjunctivitis, to flare up. Recent evidence shows that the coronavirus can also be transferred from the hands to the eyes.
  • Rubbing is harmful to people with certain pre-existing eye conditions. If you have progressive myopia (short-sightedness caused by a lengthened eyeball) or glaucoma (a condition that damages the optic nerve), rubbing your eyes can exacerbate the condition and worsen eyesight. Eye rubbing is particularly bad for a glaucoma patient with already heightened eye pressure. It can engender nerve damage and permanent vision loss.
  • Retinal tear or detachment can occur due to the heightened eye pressure caused by the rubbing.
  • Excessive eye rubbing can negatively affect your appearance. It can cause tiny blood vessels to break, resulting in bloodshot eyes, dark circles and wrinkles around the eyes.

Why Do We Rub Our Eyes?

When your eyes are itchy, it is tempting to rub them. But rubbing releases histamines, which make the itching worse, which in turn leads to more aggressive eye rubbing.

Rubbing your eyes isn’t all bad. It releases more tears, which in turn causes the meibomian glands, situated within your eyelids, to secrete much-needed oil into our eyes. That adds moisture and protects our tears from evaporating.

However, if you frequently rub your eyes because they are dry or irritated, contact Dr. Antoine immediately.

How to Stop Rubbing Your Eyes

Keep your eyes hydrated by using artificial tears or eye drops. They can be found over the counter at the pharmacy, and are especially effective against dry eyes. Certain eye drops, such as antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers, can be prescribed by Dr. Antoine to help prevent the itchy feeling that leads you to instinctually rub your eyes. In more severe cases, such as in allergy sufferers, steroid eye drops can be used to avoid chronic eye rubbing.

Excessive eye rubbing, whether due to chronic dry eye, itchy eyes, or habit, should be addressed to prevent any ocular and vision damage. Contact Antoine Eye Care at St. Louis to schedule a visit, determine the cause of your itchiness, and find out which drops to use in your specific case.

COVID-19 –  What Constitutes an Eye Care Emergency? 

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An eye care emergency is defined as medical care for conditions requiring prompt medical attention due to a sudden change in ocular or visual health.

Eye trauma, chemical exposure to the eyes, foreign objects in the eye, and ocular infections are all considered eye emergencies and should be given immediate medical attention. If you have an eye emergency, it’s critical to get immediate care in order to avoid permanent damage to your vision.

While some may opt to visit an emergency room for an eye injury, research shows that most emergency room visits for eye emergencies could have been treated by an experienced optometrist. Furthermore, going to the hospital for an eye emergency during the coronavirus pandemic isn’t the fastest or safest way to treat the problem; the hospitals are already overloaded and you risk catching the virus during your visit.

Dr. Antoine can offer personalized treatment for a wide range of eye emergencies and other ocular conditions. Call Antoine Eye Care for further instructions or call the number provided in the voicemail.

What Is an Eye Emergency?

Eye emergencies refer to any sudden onset of symptoms or obvious eye trauma that affect vision. These emergencies range from severe eye pain or vision loss to a sudden blow to the eye or chemical exposure. Call us if you experience any of the following:

  • Eye pain
  • Bleeding of the eye
  • Blood in the white of the eye
  • Swollen or bulging eye
  • Vision loss or double vision
  • New eye flashes or floaters
  • Pupils that are unequal in size
  • Severe photophobia (light sensitivity)
  • Being hit in the eye
  • Bruising around the eye
  • Eye discharge
  • Suspected eye infection
  • Severe burning, stinging, itching eyes
  • Scratched or cut eye or eyelid
  • Split contact lenses in the eye
  • A piece of broken eyeglass lens in your eye
  • Foreign object stuck in the eye

If you’re uncertain whether or not your condition is an emergency, contact Antoine Eye Care immediately.

What Should I Do If I Have An Eye Emergency?

If you have a cut or foreign object in your eye, or if you suffered from other forms of eye trauma, DO NOT:

  • Rub your eye
  • Attempt to remove any foreign objects embedded in the eye
  • Use tweezers or swabs in your eye
  • Put any ointments or medication into your eye

First Aid for Eye Injuries

Refer to the following guidelines to prevent any long-term vision loss or eye damage.

Chemical Exposure

If a contact lens is in the eye, do not attempt to remove the contact lens using your fingers. Instead, flush saline solution or water over the lens immediately as it may dislodge the lens. Contact lenses can trap harmful chemicals against the cornea, causing unnecessary damage.

Seek emergency medical care promptly after flushing.

To avoid eye exposure to toxic or abrasive chemicals, always wear protective eyewear and use caution when handling these types of products.

Foreign Objects

Although your first instinct may be to rub your eye to get the foreign object out, try to resist the urge–as rubbing can further damage the eye.

If the object isn’t embedded in the eye, you may try to remove it by flushing it out. First, wash your hands with warm water and soap to prevent contamination or infection. Then, flush the eye thoroughly with clean water or preferably saline, if available. You can also try to induce tearing by using your fingers to gently lift the upper eyelid over the lower eyelid. Causing the eye to tear may flush out the foreign object.

If the object is visible, and not embedded on the eye, you can try to gently wipe it away with a damp, clean washcloth.

Seek immediate medical attention if the above methods do not work.

Blows to the Eye

To treat a black eye, apply a cold compress to decrease swelling and support healing. Use the compress for 5 to 10 minutes at a time, allowing the eye to rest between applications. A cold compress can be made by wrapping a bag of peas, or other soft frozen items, in a clean cloth.

Never place ice directly on the skin; use a clean cloth between the skin and ice.

Call Dr. Antoine immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms after the eye is impacted:

  • Changes in vision
  • Persistent or increasing pain
  • Bleeding or any blood on the outside or inside the eye
  • Any visible difference to the appearance of your eyes

Cut or Puncture to the Eye

This type of injury always requires immediate medical care, so after you call us, make sure to follow these precautionary measures to avoid further injury:

  • Don’t attempt to remove something embedded in the eye
  • Don’t wash the eye or eyelid
  • Try to shield the eye with something protective, for example – use a pad of cotton wool as an eye shield and tape it to the surrounding eye area

If you have an eye emergency, don’t delay treatment. Timing is everything — the earlier you get treatment, the less vision damage you’ll have over the long term. Take immediate action by contacting Antoine Eye Care today. Dr. Antoine will treat any eye emergency you have or refer you to specialized care (i.e. surgery), as needed.

Antoine Eye Care serves patients from St. Louis, all throughout Missouri.

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