While stacking up the petroleum jelly for dry skin and cracking lips, it is essential that we pay attention to our eyes and the organisms that may want to attack them, writes Rita Ohai
AS the rainy season gradually gives way for harmattarn, there is a gradual increase in the amount of particles flying in the air.
Among these particles are pollen grains, bacteria and viruses which serve as irritants for the eyes. Irritants which may cause a disease called conjunctivitis, popularly known as Apollo.
According to global health organisations, conjunctivitis is the second most common eye infection in Nigeria.
Ironically, Apollo became a popular nickname owing to a legend which lists the causative microorganism as part of the living things that rode home with the astronauts from the moon on the APOLLO spacecraft in 1969.
Defining the eye condition, Dr. Bruce Akpanogho, an optician, explains, “If someone's eye is red or bloodshot and inflamed, they may have conjunctivitis or what we popularly call 'Apollo'. This is because there is an irritation of the conjunctiva, which is the membrane that covers the white of the eye and the inside of the eyelids.
Continuing, Dr. Akpanogho said, “Within this membrane, there are tiny blood vessels that get enlarged when the conjunctiva becomes irritated with a foreign particle, bacteria or virus. The enlarged blood vessels make the eye look red and sometimes itchy with pains.”
Although the thought of red eye causes anxiety in most patients, it is, however, not an uncommon dilemma. Usually, ophthalmologists can determine the cause of an Apollo by the way the eye looks and the symptoms produced.
Highlighting a few ways in which the disease may manifest, Bruce says, “If a person has a cold and suddenly develops red eyes with little or no discomfort, it may be viral conjunctivitis. If the eyes get red and itchy at the onset of the dry or harmarttan season, it is probably due to allergic conjunctivitis.
“On the other hand, the ones caused by viruses and bacterias tend to start in one eye and make their way across to the other after two to five days. However, if the irritation stays in one eye only, it's possible that a foreign body or chemical is causing the irritation,” he finished.
Other symptoms may include an increase in the amount of tears dripping from the eyes, thick yellow discharge that forms a rough crust over the eyelashes, especially after sleep, burning eyes, blurred vision and a higher sensitivity to light.
To protect ourselves from this uncomfortable experience, experts say that maintaining proper hygiene such as frequent hand washing is very necessary in minimising transmission.
Dr. Eunice Alegbe of Health Sinai Clinic said, “With regards to conjunctivitis, proper hygiene can help reduce the risk of infection. For example, if someone in your household has apollo, they need to make sure that they wash their hands often and thoroughly. ''
She further stated that, “The minute there is proof that somebody around us may have a pink or red eye, we would have to start avoiding direct contact with that person so that there is a limit to which the infection will spread. Sharing towels, clothes, pillowcases or make-up with the person can be dangerous.”
While many believe that the regular use of the right eye drop will cure this ailment, other medical professionals are of the view that the irritation experienced by the eye can only be cured by identifying the cause and avoiding it as much as possible.
According to a pharmacist, Julia Igbinovia, “Most of the things we take drugs for can actually be tackled by the body's immune system under the right conditions. Many times, people just put all sorts of things in the eye in the name of treatment which will eventually damage the eye.
“Some people who have come down with eye problems today,” she stated, “are people who should not be suffering from these things in the first place because the eye drops contain steroids. Therefore, the more effective a drug is, the harsher it will be on the eyes and the harsher it is, the more dangerous it becomes.”
Giving advice on how conjunctivitis should be handed, Igbnovia said, “The smartest thing to do is to try and avoid the thing that you suspect is causing it. After you have done that, improve your nutrition so that your body can naturally fight for you. It is only after you have done this that you can now use medication prescribed by a qualified doctor and make sure the doctor explains why he or she is giving you that drug in the first place.”
To relieve the symptoms of Apollo, medical practitioners suggest the following:
Protect your eyes from dirt and other irritating substances.
Avoid the use of makeup, but if you must use it, do not share eye makeup with anyone.
Don't touch or rub the infected eye, rather wash your hands often with soap and warm water especially after applying the eye drops or ointment to your eye or your child's eye
Wash any discharge from your eyes several times a day using a fresh cotton ball or paper towel. Afterwards, discard the cotton ball or paper towel and wash your hands with soap and warm water.
Keep the bed sheets, pillowcases, and towels clean by washing in hot water and detergent.
Switch all the contact lenses for normal eyeglasses because of the high level of irritation the eye feels each time the lens is placed on the eyeball. It is also wise never to wear another person's contact lenses so that the infection is not aggravated.
Food for the eyes
IT is generally known that exposure to the sun is very bad for the eyes. Similarly, if we use the computer for long hours, it also harms our eyes. Adding to these, we constantly hear that smoking is also bad for the eyesight. But what we rarely hear is that we can take care of our eyes with a healthy diet.
There are many foods which are good for the eyes. Here is a list of the best foods for the eyesight;
Carrots: Vitamin A is very essential to maintain good eye health. As carrots contain antioxidant beta carotene which helps to main good eye health, it is a good choice for having Vitamin A.
Besides carrots, we can also have cabbage and lettuces which are also good sources of Vitamin A. Lack of Vitamin A can cause night blindness.
Spinach: This is also known locally as Ugu leaves. It protects eyes from eye diseases. A carotenoid called lutein which is found in spinach protects eyes from cataract and macular degeneration.
Fruits: Fruits such as kiwis, oranges, wolfberries are full of Vitamin C. As you know Vitamin C eliminates free radicals that cause damage to the eyes.
Soy: It contains essential fatty acids, phytoestrogens, vitamin E and natural anti-inflammatory agents that are good for the eyes. Soy products like soy milk, soy beans, soy yogurt are good for eye health. Olive oil and corn are also good for the eyes as these contain good amount of Vitamin E.
Garlic: Garlic is an excellent food for improving eyesight. It contains sulfur that helps in making the lens stronger and resilient. Onions are also rich with sulfur and good for the eyesight.
Apricots: Apricots contain Vitamin A which relieves eyes from the damage done by the free radicals. It also contains carotenoids which is responsible for better vision.
Eggs: If you are an egg lover, then it's good news. Eggs are very good for the eyesight. Eggs contain cysteine, sulfur, lecithin, amino acids and lutein. These also protect eyes from developing cataracts. However, try not to take more than one egg a day for cholesterol
Salmon and Sardines: Omega-3 fatty acids are good for the eyesight and they can be found in fishes of this nature.
Dark Chocolate: Many do not know this, but dark chocolate contains flavanoids which protect blood vessels of the eyes. As a result of that, cornea and lens stay strong. One point should be noted that dark chocolate needs to be pure to get the desired result.
Besides the above mentioned foods, there are many other foods which are very good for the eyesight. For instance, grapes and lemon are very good source for good eyesight.