Herpes Zoster

One’s first encounter with the herpes zoster virus is usually childhood chicken pox. Later in life, the virus may reactivate, causing a characteristic rash of small blisters, frequently on the chest or forehead, which form crusts and may leave scars. This second encounter is known as shingles.

Unlike chicken pox, this condition is usually quite painful. Although this disease often occurs in normal, healthy people, it occurs more frequently in elderly or immune-compromised individuals.

It is important to see an ophthalmologist when herpes zoster occurs on the face because the virus may invade the eye. An ophthalmologist looks for elevated pressure in the eye, inflammation, and herpes zoster lesions on the surface of the eye. All these problems can be treated but they are sometimes difficult to manage. Therefore, careful treatment and follow-up are required. New oral antiviral medications are providing sufferers with a quicker, more complete recovery.


How To Insert Eyedrops

Infections, inflammation, glaucoma, and many other eye disorders are treated with eyedrops. Surprisingly, even the small amount of medication in an eyedrop can create significant side effects in other parts of the body. It is important to remember that all medicines have side effects. There are ways to decrease the absorption of the eyedrop into the system, and to increase the time the eyedrop is on the eye, making the medicine more safe and effective.

Inserting eyedrops may seem difficult at first but becomes easier with practice. To put in an eyedrop, tilt the head back. Then create a pocket in front of the eye by pulling the lower lid down with an index finger or gently pinch the lower lid outward with the thumb and index finger. Let the drop fall into the pocket without touching your eye or eyelid (to prevent contamination of the bottle).

Immediately after instilling the drop, squeeze the bridge of your nose for two to three minutes with your thumb and forefinger. This prevents most of the drop from traveling down the tear duct to the rest of the body.

Keep your eyes closed for three to five minutes after instilling the drop. Because the volume of a single drop exceeds the capacity of the surface of the eye, it serves no purpose to use two drops at the same time.

Before opening your eyes, dab unabsorbed drops and tears from the closed lids with a tissue.

If you are taking two different types of eyedrops, wait at least five minutes before instilling the second drop.


How to View an Eclipse

Looking at an eclipse is as dangerous as staring at the unblocked sun, and can cause damage to the retina, the light sensitive nerve layer at the back of the eye. The damage affects the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision.

Many people think they can protect themselves by looking through filtered binoculars, sunglasses, neutral density filters or exposed photographic or radiographic film. A retinal burn can occur in spite of all these barriers. In a 1970 solar eclipse in the eastern US, 145 retinal burns were reported. Forty percent of the injured were using protective filters.

Parents must caution children not to look directly at the sun. Not only are children more tempted to watch an eclipse; the damage is more severe because the child’s natural lens is so clear that it lets more U-V rays reach the back of the eye.

There are safe ways to watch an eclipse. Attend a display at a planetarium or university astronomy department where optical instruments are used to project an image of the eclipse from a telescope to a screen for your viewing. Watch the eclipse on television. Or use the simple device described below.

Take two sheets of white paper. Make a pinhole in the center of one of the pieces. Then stand with your back to the sun and hold the sheet with the pinhole so that the sun shines through the hole and onto the other sheet of paper. An image of the eclipse will be visible on this sheet. It is amazing how well you can observe a solar eclipse with this device.

If you suspect you or a family member has suffered a solar injury to the eye, consult an ophthalmologist.