12 Frequently Asked Questions about Eyes

(Just in time for the holidays!)

WHAT:  In celebration of the festive holiday season, we’ve compiled a 12 Days of Christmas-inspired list of frequently asked questions about eyes. Sandy T. Feldman, MD - Medical Director of Clearview Eye & Laser Medical Center in San Diego - can speak from an expert perspective on these and any other eye-related topics:

1: Why does a scratch on the eye hurt so much?
The cornea of the eye is laced with pain transmitting nerve cells that tell you to remove a foreign body quickly before it causes any damage.

2: Why do we get “sleepers”?
The crusty, sandy stuff that builds up in the corners of our eyes as we sleep is actually made up of different materials, including discarded cells, mucus and debris (including bacteria, bits of oil from the eyelids, and dust). During the day, these materials are swept away by the eyelids; at night, the debris is allowed to accumulate. 

3: What does it mean to have 20/20 vision?
20/20 vision refers to the sharpness of vision 20 feet from an object. Having 20/60 vision means that you must be 20 feet from an object to see what a person with normal vision can see at 60 feet.

4: Why do eyelids twitch?
Mild twitching of the eyelid is a common phenomenon. Although these involuntary contractions of muscles are annoying, they are almost always temporary and completely harmless. When your eye is twitching, it is not visible to anyone else. Lack of sleep, too much caffeine and/or increased stress seem to be main causes.

5: What’s the difference between an ophthalmologist, optometrist and optician?
An ophthalmologist has a medical degree and is licensed to practice medicine, perform eye surgery, treat all eye diseases, and prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses. An optometrist has a degree in optometry and is qualified to determine the need for glasses and contact lenses, prescribe optical correction, and screen for some eye conditions. An optician usually has a combination of college and on-the-job training, and can fit and dispense eyeglasses or contact lenses based upon a prescription from a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist.

6: Can eyes be transplanted?
Currently there is no way to transplant a whole eye, but corneas have been successfully transplanted for many years.

7: Is it safe to clean my contact lenses with a homemade solution?
Using commercial saline solutions is the safest method of cleaning lenses. Some studies have shown that homemade solutions may lead to corneal infections.

8: Will sitting too close to the television set hurt my eyes?
No, there is no scientific evidence that TV sets emit rays that are harmful to the eyes.

9: Will my child inherit my need for glasses?
Possibly. If both the biological parents wear glasses, your children are likely to need them as well.

10: Can nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism be prevented?
No. These common focusing errors are the result of a defect in the mechanism of the eyes that is most likely hereditary. However, in the case of nearsightedness, there is some evidence that too much close work may exacerbate an existing condition.

11: How safe are LASIK and cataract surgeries?
All surgery - even LASIK - has risks, but most people who undergo LASIK treatment do not suffer from serious side effects. The most common risks of LASIK surgery include dry eye syndrome, the possible need for glasses or contact lenses after surgery, visual symptoms (including halos, glare, starbursts, and double vision), and loss of vision. Be sure to talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of LASIK surgery to determine whether it’s the right option for you. Cataract surgery also has risks, but it is one of the safest and most commonly performed surgical procedures.

12: How long is pink eye contagious?
Pink eye (conjunctivitis) generally remains contagious as long as you are experiencing tearing and matted eyes. Signs and symptoms of pink eye usually improve within three to seven days. If the condition is caused by a bacterial infection, treatment with antibiotic drops may be necessary. Good hygiene, including hand-washing after touching the eyes, is important to minimize spread of the disease.

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LASIK is a medical procedure with risks involved and isn't right for everyone. Individual results may vary. Talk to your eye doctor and consider both the risks and benefits before having the procedure. Additional information can be found at our website or at fda.gov. the material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider.

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