Summer is a great time to get outside and soak up the sun. Have a picnic, go for bike rides, go swimming, and enjoy the fresh air. But make sure you remember to take care of your eyes while you do so. After last year’s heat wave, Calgarians may have noticed increased levels of eye irritation, including infection and allergy triggers. Between rising temperatures, pollutants, and allergens, summer is a common time for eye conditions to develop or to become worse. Be aware of what eye conditions are likely to develop when the temperature rises so that you can know how to treat or prevent them.
The Condition: Dry Eyes
Alberta is notoriously dry, which leads our province to extremely high rates of Dry Eye Syndrome (DES). It is estimated that approximately 90% of Albertans suffer from dry eye symptoms, although many people do not seek treatment. Dry eye symptoms can be caused by a lack of lubricating oils within the tears or a lack of tear production. These can cause the eyes to feel dry and irritated, sometimes also creating a burning or stinging sensation. Dry eye symptoms may become worse due to heat and wind that cause tears to evaporate quickly. Summertime allergies may also trigger dry eye symptoms.
The Treatment: Artificial tears and lubricating eye drops may help to relieve dry eye symptoms. You can use an eye relief mask to warm the eyes and stimulate oil production. Cleansing eye wipes and eye gels can also help to relieve symptoms. More severe cases of dry eyes may require advanced dry eye treatment from an optometrist.
The Condition: Allergies
As tree pollen and freshly cut grass blow in the breeze, many people will feel their allergies flare up in summer. It is common for allergies to make the eyes feel itchy, dry, or burning and they may cause the eyes to become red or watery.
The Treatment: To help fight allergic reactions, take allergy medications. In addition to this, try lubricating eye drops to help soothe irritation. Speak to your doctor and optometrist about allergies and discuss the severity of your reaction and what medications may help reduce your symptoms. Remember to not rub your eyes, as this will further irritate them.
The Condition: Styes
This is a type of bacterial infection that develops as a bump near the lash line. Often, styes form on the outside of the eyelid, but it is possible for them to form on the inside of the eyelid. Styes often resemble a boil or a pimple and are filled with pus. A stye may be painful, red, or swollen and they can vary in size and severity.
The Treatment: The majority of styes aren’t dangerous to your eye or vision and they often resolve on their own. Applying a warm washcloth to your closed eye and gently massaging it for 5 to 10 minutes a day can help reduce a stye. If the stye is still present after 48 hours or if swelling and redness extend to the rest of the eyelid or other areas of the face, contact an optometrist or doctor.
The Condition: Eye Infections
Eye infections develop much more easily in the heat, and the amount of outdoor activity during summer also exposes people to more bacteria. Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, is an infection of the transparent membrane of the eye. Pink eye may cause redness of the eye, irritation, a gritty feeling in the eye, watery eyes, and discharge. This discharge often dries on the eyes while a person sleeps and can make the eye feel crusty and difficult to open in the morning. If pink eye is caused by an infection, it can easily spread from one person to another.
The Treatment: If you have pink eye, make sure to wash your hands often to prevent the spread from yourself to others or to your other eye. Wash items that come into contact with your face, such as washcloths, pillowcases, and makeup brushes. Pink eye often clears up on its own in 1 to 3 weeks. Antibiotics are also available as a pink eye treatment, often in the form of eye drops. If your pink eye lasts longer than 3 weeks, schedule an appointment with your Calgary eye doctor.
If you happen to develop one of these summertime eye conditions, contact your Calgary optometrist at My Optometry. Our eye doctors can help you recover from conjunctivitis and styes and can work with you to develop a strategy to control summer allergies. For dry eye treatment, speak with an optometrist about our advanced dry eye treatment available at all My Optometry locations. No matter what summer condition impacts your eye health, My Optometrist can help you reduce your symptoms and enjoy your summer in comfort. To book an eye exam with one of our eye doctors, contact My Optometrist at one of our three locations at Health First in SE Calgary, Sunridge in NE Calgary, or Three Hills, AB. You can also call us or fill out the online contact form.
Q: How long is pink eye contagious?
A: Bacterial conjunctivitis is generally contagious either for as long as symptoms last or until 24 hours after starting antibiotics. This form of pink eye is highly infectious and it spreads at about the same rate as the common cold, so try not to touch the eye and make sure to wash your hands often in case you did touch near your eyes by accident.
Q: What are some ways to protect my eyes in the summer?
A: There are several steps you can take to keep your eyes safe during summer:
Q: Do contacts make eye irritation worse?
A: They can. While some people are able to live with conditions such as Dry Eye Syndrome (DES) and still wear contacts, many people prefer not to. When your eye is irritated, removing your contacts can help your eyes stay lubricated and more comfortable. If you get an eye infection while wearing contacts, throw those contacts away and then wash your hands.
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