5 Freaky Eye Parasites You’ll Definitely Want to Avoid

types of eye parasites

If you’re eating, we suggest you stop. As if the word “parasites” isn’t enough to make your stomach churn, we’re about to discuss eye parasites. Yes, that’s a thing. A very real, belly-turning thing. As you’ll soon find out, these parasites don’t necessarily start in your eyeball, which honestly, somehow makes the whole notion more disturbing. In some instances, they slowly crawl their way up into it from others parts of your body. Keep reading for 5 of the freakiest eye parasites we hope you never, ever run into.

  1. Baylisascaris procyonis

Quite the mouthful, this parasite is commonly referred to as the raccoon roundworm. That’s because it’s primary host is, you guessed it, a raccoon. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 90% of juvenile and 70% of adult raccoons carry this virus. So how does it come in contact with humans? While it’s rare, it’s often through feces left in soil.

Once this parasite finds its way into a host, it migrates its way towards the brain after hatching in the gut. This is how it can end up in the eyeball. It can move fairly quickly, too — it can take as little as three days to make this move up into the eyeball or brain, where it will begin eating away at the tissue. In the eyeball specifically, it will begin to eat away at the retina and optic nerve, causing blindness. A baylisascaris procyonis prognosis is devastating, and can often lead to death.

  1. Larvae — fly, gnat, maggot

Not nearly as exotic or strange as the raccoon roundworm, most of us have had plenty of run-ins with flies, gnats and maggots. Generally benign, they’re mostly just an annoyance. But for a few unlucky folks, they’ve caused a lot of trouble. While it’s a fairly uncommon occurrence, they can lay eggs in the eyeball. If the eggs stay around long enough to hatch — well, you’ve now got a larva…in your eyeball. It will begin eating the surrounding eyeball tissue for nutrients. The best way to treat it is simply to remove it via medical procedure.

  1. Loa loa worm

The loa loa worm is also known as the eye worm. It hails from India and Africa. Once they enter a host, through a cut for instance, they feast on the underlying tissue. It travels throughout the body, underneath the skin. As it moves, it cause redness and inflammation. Once in the eyeball, it will cause swelling. Treatment for the loa loa worm can include medication, prescribed by a doctor, or surgical removal — even from within the eyeball.

  1. Toxocariasis

This term covers a range of roundworms, including the dog roundworm, cat roundworm, and fox roundworm. Contamination usually occurs from unknowingly ingesting the parasite. This can happen from drinking contaminated water or eating unwashed vegetables or infected meats that haven’t been fully cooked.

If even a single larva makes its way into the eyeball, it can begin to cause serious damage. Symptoms include redness, a white pupil, inflammation, and a fixed pupil. As it progresses, vision will be lost. This can take days or weeks to occur. The damage is usually permanent and can lead to total blindness.

  1. Onchocerciasis

Another tough one to pronounce, this parasite is also called African river blindness. While you may not have ever heard of this parasitic worm, it’s actually the second leading cause of blindness, due to infection. It’s usually found in sub-Sahara Africa, though cases have also occurred in Central and South America. It spreads through the bites of black flies, which live near rivers. It takes several bites for infection to occur. Treatment typically is just a prescription medication which stops the worm from reproducing, eventually causing it to die off.

The majority of these parasites may enter the system unknowingly. But as always, if you find yourself experiencing strange or unusual symptoms related to your eye health or vision, make a trip to your eye doctor as early as possible!

Why is My Vision Blurry?

why is my vision blurry

When vision becomes blurry, it can be unnerving to say the least. Any prescription contact or glasses-wearer knows the struggle of waking up in the morning to hazy vision ‒ and the unavoidable routine of searching around blindly with your hands to find your glasses so you can see again before crawling out of bed. Le sigh.

When NOT to Worry about Blurred Vision

In most cases, blurry vision is simply due to a vision deficiency, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. These are common issues that are pretty simple to correct with a prescription for eyewear.

If you already wear contacts and notice your vision is a little out of focus, it’s likely a sign that it’s time to renew your prescription. This can happen, as vision often worsens over time. This is totally normal, so don’t fret! Simply schedule a visit to your optometrist for an updated fitting.

When Blurred Vision May Mean Something More Serious

When vision becomes blurry suddenly, it may be a sign of something more hazardous to your health than an ill-fitting prescription. If you are experiencing any of the following issues, you should seek medical attention right away.

Some causes of sudden on-set blurry vision, which can occur in one or both eyes, include:

  • Migraine headaches ‒ In this case, the blurry vision is just a side effect of the migraine, and is perhaps not even the worst part of these horrendous headaches. Luckily, once the headache clears up, vision should be restored to normal.
  • Stroke ‒ Like a migraine, blurry vision in this case is probably the least of your medical concerns. Vision may become disrupted by a stroke due to the lack of oxygen in the brain, which can then damage neuro pathways that send signals to the eyeball. For some people this vision loss is temporary and will be restored following the stroke, though it may take a few months to be completely healed. In other cases, vision loss may be permanent.
  • Eye infection or injury ‒ Trauma to the eyeball or an infection can both cause blurred vision. As the eye heals, normal vision should be restored. That said, it’s important to follow your physician’s treatment plan in order to ensure healing occurs as quickly and completely as possible.
  • Retina detachment ‒ The retina may become detached for many different reasons. Whatever the cause, it can make vision immediately blurry. It’s important to know that a retina can also detach slowly over time, which means vision may also become blurry over time. A detached retina requires surgery to be corrected.

In other instances, blurry vision may set in more slowly, though it can still be indicative of a more serious health problem. Here are a few examples of such cases:

  • Cataracts ‒ When the lens in the eyeball becomes opaque, or cloudy, it can cause blurred vision. This typically happens slowly over time; however, a fairly simple procedure can usually remove the cataracts and restore clear vision.
  • Pterygium ‒ A slow forming, yellow scar on the sclera (the white part) of the eyeball, pterygium grow large enough that it begins to spread over the cornea. When this happens vision can become either blurred or obstructed. Surgery is usually the best way to treat this condition. Once the pterygium is removed, vision is restored.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy ‒ We’ve talked about how diabetes can cause vision problems When blood sugar levels spike the retina can suffer damage. Over time, sustained retina damage can cause permanently blurred vision.
  • Glaucoma ‒ Like cataracts, glaucoma can spread slowly over time. With it, vision slowly becomes blurred. This gradual change may take time for a person to recognize. Unfortunately, if damage spreads too far, it may be irreparable.

Whether you experience a loss of focus slowly over time, or your vision becomes blurred in only a few short days, it’s important to see your ophthalmologist as soon as possible. In nearly all cases, the sooner the cause is diagnosed, the quicker healing can occur. This can make a significant difference in whether your vision will return to normal or remain permanently blurred – so make that appointment!

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Eye Health Today

improve eye health

Who isn’t eating kale and cauliflower (ahem, the new kale) while slugging fresh-pressed juices in between yoga class these days? You, too? We kid, but health and wellbeing are hot topics nowadays ‒ and for good reason. Taking care of yourself will not only make you look great, but you’ll feel even better. That said, there’s one thing too many of us overlook: eye health.

Not many people realize that with a few daily tips and tricks you can drastically improve your eye health. Sure, it’s not quite as instantaneously gratifying as dropping ten pounds; but taking care of your eyes now will have some serious long-term benefits. Keep reading for some easy-peasy ways to improve your eye health ‒ no cardio, Pilates class, or fad diets required.

Eat eye-healthy

Giving your eyes the proper nutrients they require to keep vision in tip-top shape is something you can do in about 10 seconds. Yep, it only requires a matter of seconds. How is this possible? You’ve just gotta swallow a vitamin.

Our eyes need things like Vitamin C, Beta-carotene, zinc, and lutein to keep them strong and healthy. Luckily, you can get all of these things in a single multivitamin or supplement. In fact, you can even buy ones that are made for eye health specifically.

While we’re on the subject of food, you can also include foods in your diet that are naturally rich in these nutrients. Here’s a quick list of some yummy options that work wonders for eye health:

  • Dark, leafy greens
  • Egg yolks
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Pumpkin
  • Blueberries
  • Coldwater fish, like salmon and cod

Give ‘em a rest

Most of us are pretty much on screen overload these days. Between smart phones, computers, and televisions, we’re logging mega hours behind screens. Unfortunately, there’s a definite downside to all this for our eyes. Without even realizing it, uninterrupted screen time can cause eye fatigue, strain, and dry eyes.

To combat the side effects, remember to give your eyes a rest, especially if you’re working an eight-hour day behind a computer. The best thing you can do is simply lay down, close your eyes, and chill out. To maximize relaxation, thrown on a cool eye compress or even a slice of cucumber over each eye.

If that’s not practical, remember to simply look away from your screen at least once every hour for about 10 minutes. This break gives your eyes a chance to refresh themselves. Bonus: take those 10 minutes to go for a quick walk around the office or neighborhood ‒ your whole mind and body will be refreshed!

Do daily exercises

We promised up front that when it comes to eye health, sweaty cardio isn’t involved, but we didn’t say exercise was completely off the table. When it comes to eye exercises, you can do them just about anywhere ‒ even in your highest heels. Here are a few quick and easy exercises to try out:

  • Roll your eyes. The trick here is to go slowly, otherwise you might make yourself dizzy. Do about 10 circles clockwise, then switch and do 10 more counterclockwise.
  • With clean hands, rub your palms together to heat them up a bit. Then gently press them against your closed eyelids for about 5-10 seconds. This practice is called Palming. It’s thought to help relax the optic nerve, which can carry stress and become strained when eyes are fatigued. When palming, you should not place any pressure on your eye socket ‒ you’re just laying your heated hands over the eyes.
  • Practice focusing near and far by holding a pen at arm’s length. Move it towards you, (about six inches from your nose) then back away from you. This forces your eye to refocus between near and far. Repeat this about 10 times.

Blink…on purpose

Like we said, all that screen time can be really wearing on our eyes. One issue is that we don’t naturally blink as often as we should when staring at a screen. This can lead to dry eyes and fatigue. To combat this, force yourself to blink every 3-4 seconds for a minute or two. This will instantly refresh and revive your eyes.

Protect ‘em when outdoors

We know we say this all the time, but the advice is too good to ignore. Throwing on a pair of sunglasses before you head outside is one of the best things you can do for your eyes year-round! On especially sunny days, consider throwing on a hat for extra good measure. The brim will provide soothing shade to protect from UV rays and squinting, so your eyes stay healthy and your skin stays wrinkle-free!

All About the Cornea – What is it, and What Are Some of the More Commonly Experienced Issues?

cornea

The eyeball is a super complex organ comprised of many different parts that work perfectly together to allow us to see. Each little piece has its own unique and necessary job to do so that vision is as seamless as possible. One of the major components of this grouping is the cornea, which performs a number of different tasks, all for the good of our vision. In this piece, we’ll dig into all things cornea ‒ what is it, what it does, and some common issues faced when something goes wrong with it, whether a disease or injury. Keep reading for the lowdown!

What Is the Cornea?

The cornea is a clear, dome-shaped layer that covers the front of the eyeball, including the pupil and iris. It’s the outermost level of the eye, which means it’s the part you can touch if put your finger in your eye (which we highly suggest you avoid doing).

The cornea is made up of tissue that receives no supply of oxygen through blood vessels, but instead gets its oxygen from the air. This allows the cornea full transparency, which of course, is necessary for it to do its job correctly.

We know this definition makes the cornea sound fairly simple, but it actually is composed of a whopping five layers, each with its own function. These include:

  1. Epithelium ‒ outermost layer that blocks materials from entering the eyeball
  2. Bowman’s layer ‒ made from collagen, which can create scars on cornea if it is injured
  3. Stroma ‒ contains most of the components that keep the cornea transparent, such as water and collagen
  4. Descemet’s membrane ‒ protects against infections
  5. Endothelium ‒ key layer in keeping the cornea clear by getting rid of any waste that may infiltrate the cornea

What Does It Do?

As the outermost layer, you might have correctly guessed that part of the cornea’s job is to protect the eye. It shields some of the eyeball’s more delicate parts, like the pupil, from potentially harmful things like dust, allergens, and even germs.

The cornea isn’t the only great protector, though. Like we said, the eyeball is an incredibly complex system. Along with the cornea, the eyelids, eyelashes, tears and tear ducts, sclera, and eye socket all work together to keep the eyeball safe.

The cornea has another mega job to do: helping the eye to focus. It does this by bending light that enters the eye (hence the dome shape). The lens takes over from there, continuing to focus and refine the image so that it can be eventually sent to the brain.

Common Eye Issues That Affect the Cornea

The cornea is susceptible to many different injuries and complications, just like any other part of the body. Here, we’ll go over a few of the most common of these:

Pink eye ‒ Chances are that you’ve encountered this pesky condition at least once in your life. Conjunctivitis is typically pretty harmless, but this temporary inflammation can be a total pain to manage, especially as it is highly contagious. A prescription antibiotic usually does the trick for clearing up pink eye.

Allergies ‒ Allergies will flare up at least one point during the year, depending on what you’re allergic to. While some people are affected in the fall, many people experience allergy issues in the spring, when there’s an increase of pollen floating in the air. Like pink eye, this issue is incredibly common and of little concern. Eye drops and antihistamines usually do the trick keeping things under control.

Corneal abrasion ‒ This is typically caused by an injury or trauma to the eye. When an abrasion occurs, part of the epithelial, the outermost layer of the cornea, is lost. Antibiotic eye drops and a patch are the most common treatments for when this happens.

Corneal dystrophy­ ‒ There are a few different types of corneal dystrophies, but generally speaking they all refer to a clouding of the cornea. As you know by now, a healthy cornea is completely clear. Any clouding could impede vision. This is a rare hereditary disorder that often requires surgery.

Now that you know a bit more about the cornea, perhaps you’ll have a greater appreciation for it each time you go to insert your contact lens!

The Most Common Age-Related Eye Problems

age-related-eye-problemsAs we age, it’s common to begin to notice different eye health problems. These conditions can vary widely, both in symptoms experienced and in the resulting effect they have on the eyeball and vision. Luckily, most age-related issues can be treated – or even corrected – with medication, procedures, and prescription glasses or contacts. Keep reading for a list of some of the most common eye problems brought on by age, and information on how they are typically treated.

Cataracts

Cataracts are a clouding of the eyeball lens, which is normally clear. They can be very slow-forming, which means someone can have cataracts for a long time and not even realize it. Eventually, when they spread over enough of the eye lens, the clouding can affect vision.

Routine eye exams are the best way to check for and monitor cataracts. Your doctor will be able to alert you if and when they need to be removed. This can be done with a fairly simple and safe surgery. The procedure is typically done out-patient.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a condition caused by a buildup of pressure in the eyeball. This pressure can begin to deteriorate the optic nerve, which is the channel that carries signals from your eyeball to the brain. This causes you to see spots, or have gaps in your vision.

Glaucoma can worsen over time, though early-on those who have it may not experience any symptoms. If left undetected over a few years, it can lead to permanent blindness.

This condition is more prevalent in older populations, and can be diagnosed at a routine eye exam. Once detected, it may be treated with either prescription eye drops or surgery.

Presbyopia

It’s estimated that over 100 million Americans over the age of 40 suffer from presbyopia, making it a really common vision issue. In fact, it’s a condition that most people will eventually face in older age. In this condition, items viewed up close become blurry – just like being farsighted.

The eye lens is soft and pliable. However, it becomes more rigid as we age, and this rigidity is what causes presbyopia. As the lens stiffens, the loss of flexibility causes vision loss.

While no one wants to experience worsening vision, presbyopia can be corrected with prescription glasses or contacts, like Acuvue Oasys or Bausch and Lomb’s Purevision 2.

Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) occurs when the retina begins to deteriorate. It’s extremely common – in fact, it’s the number one cause of vision loss in people over the age of 60. While most will only experience vision loss from this condition, in more severe cases, ARMD can lead to blindness.

ARMD should be closely monitored by an ophthalmologist during routine eye exams. Some cases can be treated with prescription medications and/or surgery.

Eye Floaters

Floaters are tiny spots or lines that interrupt vision, and typically appear when looking at something bright, like a white wall or the sky. These small, grayish spots are caused by a loosening of the vitreous humor. Housed in the back of the eye, this gel-like substance makes up a large amount of the eyeball. As tiny pieces of the material loosen, they begin to float freely. These are the small spots and lines that may be seen by older folks.

While irritating, most people learn to ignore their eye floaters and don’t require any treatment for the condition.

Dry Eye

Dry eye is a common eye issue for people of all ages, but as you grow older it becomes more prevalent. In fact, most people over the age of 65 experience symptoms of dry eyes. In these cases, it’s typically caused by either poor quality of tears, or an inadequate amount of them.

To learn more about dry eyes, see our recent article on the topic, which discusses causes, symptoms, and treatment.