Glossary

Aniridia

Aniridia literally means “without an iris” and usually occurs in both eyes. It is a rare genetic disorder that causes a person to be born without, or with a partial presence of, an iris, the part of the eye responsible for controlling the amount of light that reaches the retina.

Astigmatism

Astigmatism is an irregular curvature on the cornea (front surface of the eye) which causes a person’s vision to be blurred at all distances.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelash follicles that is caused by bacteria. An overgrowth of bacteria of the skin can result from too much oil production by the glands near the eyelids. Blepharitis can be the cause of reoccurring styes. Symptoms of Blepharitis include crusty, red, swollen, itchy eyes. Occasionally eyelashes may fall out.

Cataracts

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye, which can cause one’s vision to become blurry. They are common with age and can occur in one or both eyes. The clouding usually occurs slowly, but can happen quickly, especially after trauma to the eye. While cataracts are not painful, they do cause many symptoms such as blurry vision, fewer details, glare while driving or reading, dull colors, changes in your glasses prescription and double vision in one eye.

Chalazion

A chalazion is a lump that appears in the eyelid as a result of inflammation in an oil-producing sweat gland inside the skin. When this gland becomes blocked, it can rupture, which often leads to inflammation. A chalazion usually only involves the upper eyelid and may cause swelling, occasional pain and redness. It can cause the eyelid to swell and can sometimes grow as large as an eighth of an inch.

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Also known as “pink eye” from the redness and inflammation it causes, conjunctivitis is a very common affliction of the cornea that affects millions of people around the world per year. It causes irritation, itching and burning of the conjunctiva, which lines the eyelids, and can have many causes, including allergies, viruses and bacterial infections. Many times, the disease’s symptoms are easily managed and disappear after several days, but in extreme cases, professional treatment may be needed. If severe cases are left untreated, they may worsen and impair vision.

Corneal Abrasions

The cornea is the transparent part of the eye responsible for protection and refraction. A corneal abrasion is a painful scrape or cut to the clear surface of the eye. Symptoms can include pain, burning, blurred vision, a loss of vision and spasms in the muscles around the eye.

Corneal Disease (Keratitis)

The cornea is the dome-shaped clear covering at the center of your eyes. It protects your eyes, and its curvature is also responsible for many aspects of our vision. It is a highly complex series of cells and proteins, and unlike most of the tissues of the body, it has no veins or blood vessels of any kind to help nourish and maintain it, because the blood vessels would interfere with our vision. This makes it vulnerable to outside infections and diseases, of which there are many.

Corneal Ulcer

A corneal ulcer is an open sore on the clear overlaying structure of the eye. Typically corneal ulcers are caused by infection, however, scratches and other injuries can also result in ulcers. Patients who wear contact lenses are at an increased risk of corneal ulcers. Wearing lenses for extended periods of time can block oxygen to the cornea, making it more susceptible to infections. Symptoms of a corneal ulcer are redness, pain, discharge, blurry vision and round, white spots visible on the eye.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that damages the blood vessels in the retina, and usually affects both eyes. Diabetic retinopathy can affect people with Type I and Type II diabetes. There are no common symptoms present during the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, and there are four stages:

  • Mild Non-proliferative Retinopathy – Minor swelling occurs in small regions in the tiny blood vessels of the retina.
  • Moderate Non-proliferative Retinopathy – The blood vessels in the retina are blocked.
  • Severe Non-proliferative Retinopathy – The blockage of the blood vessels causes malnourishment to the retina, which causes the retina to send signals to the body to create new blood vessels.
  • Proliferative Retinopathy – The newly formed blood vessels develop along the surface of the retina, and are very fragile. Their fragility can cause them to leak, which can cause severe vision loss and even blindness. This stage can also cause macular edema, which can lead to vision loss.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Tears are very important for the eyes, and for a number of reasons. They not only act as a lubricant, but also a cleanser – keeping away and washing out dust, debris and foreign objects – and also as an antibacterial, neutralizing any microorganisms which take residence on the eye’s surface. Therefore, when tear production is insufficient, it can create many problems for the eyes. Not only are dry eyes uncomfortable, they are also more prone to injury and infection.

Flashes & Floaters

Flashes are flashes of light. Floaters are small specks that move in and out of your field of vision. They may be more noticeable when looking at a plain background. Floaters are tiny clumps of cells inside the vitreous humour (the clear fluid that fills the inside of the eye) that can be different shapes.

Fuchs’ Dystrophy

Fuchs’ Dystrophy is a specific kind of corneal dystrophy, but represents an exception to many patterns found with other corneal dystrophies. Unlike most corneal dystrophies, Fuchs’ Dystrophy is typically only recorded in the later stages of life because it is does not affect vision right away even though the disease may be present for decades. It is caused when cells in the innermost layer of the cornea begin to break down for no discernable reason. As a result, the cornea begins to absorb water, causing swelling which blurs vision. Many times, as the disease progresses the cornea will even develop blisters, and they can be very painful when they burst.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a common eye disorder that is, in fact, not one but an entire group of disorders with a common label. It is a disorder that damages the optic nerve, which serves to send the images from the eye to the brain. While high intraocular pressure is a risk factor for glaucoma, it is not the only cause. The early stages of glaucoma are undetectable, and experts estimate that only half of the people who currently have glaucoma even realize that they are affected. While there is no cure for glaucoma, many medications and procedures exist that can help to slow the disease or stop it altogether.

Herpes Zoster (Shingles)

Herpes Zoster is a viral disease that causes a painful, skin rash. Shingles start out as a small rash of red blisters, with new blisters continuing to form for three to five days. Herpes Zoster commonly attacks the nerves around the eye, especially the nerve leading to the upper eyelid and forehead. If the virus affects the nerves that go directly to the eyeball, it can cause serious eye problems, including corneal ulcers, inflammation and glaucoma. Shingles on the face can cause swollen eyelids, redness and pain.

Hordeolum (Sty)

A sty is a tender, red bump on the eyelid caused by an acute infection or inflammation of the oil glands in the eyelid. If the gland is blocked, the oil produced by the gland will become congested and cause the oil to protrude through the wall of the gland forming a lump. A sty can grow on the upper and/or lower eyelid and cause tenderness and burning.

Hyperopia (Farsightedness)

Hyperopia, also known as farsightedness, is when close objects appear blurry. Hyperopia is most common in children, and it can improve as a person ages.

Keratoconus

Keratoconus is a degeneration of the cornea. The cause of Keratoconus is unknown, though it is believed to be the result of a lack of collagen that is present from birth. Over time, the round cornea loses its normal shape and becomes cone-shaped. Research has proven that allergies and the eye rubbing that results can attribute to the progression of Keratoconus. Most people who develop Keratoconus develop blurry vision early on and are diagnosed as nearsighted. The nearsightedness in someone with Keratoconus degenerates and become worse over time. Keratoconus is typically not discovered until adolescence, and the patient can usually continue to be treated with contact lenses. Extreme degeneration can require a corneal transplant. 

Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration is a disease that blurs the sharp, central vision you need for activities such as reading and driving. Macular Degeneration is the degeneration of the eye’s macula, the part of the eye responsible for seeing fine detail. As cells in the macula die, vision decreases. Macular Degeneration can worsen so slowly that patients don’t notice much drastic change in their vision. In others, the degeneration can occur so rapidly that fairly sudden vision loss in both eyes can occur.

Monovision

Monovision is a treatment that is prescribed to people over 40 who are affected by Presbyopia. Monovision is a technique which requires a patient to wear different contact lenses, typically one for close vision and one for distance vision. A contact lens to correct near vision is worn in the non-dominant eye while a contact lens is worn in the dominant eye to correct distance vision. The brain is tricked into thinking that the contact lens is a part of the natural eye. This technique typically does not work in an eyeglass prescription. Even in contact lens form, it takes a couple weeks to adapt to Monovision. However, the results are worth not having to reach for reading glasses every time you want to see something up close. Monovision does not work for everyone, and it does not give you perfect vision.

Myopia (Nearsightedness)

Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, is when distant objects appear blurry. The condition is inherited and usually discovered in childhood. As a person ages, myopia can progress, requiring a stronger prescription to correct vision.

Nevus

A nevus is a benign area of brown pigmentation that looks like an eye freckle. Nevi are usually harmless, but it is always a good idea to monitor any changes in their appearance. Your doctor should document the size, shape and any elevation of the spot. Occasionally, questionable areas of concern may need to be biopsied for cancer cells. Typically, however, nevi are not a problem and never cause a patient any issues.

Pinguecula

A Pinguecula is a very common yellow/whitish lesion that appears on the eye. It is essentially a callous, and there are typically no symptoms associated with them. The complaints about pinguecula are generally all cosmetic. If the area is particularly raised, it may cause irritation to the eyelid. It is believed that the primary cause of pinguecula is exposure to toxic vapors, dangerous chemicals, salt water and sun (ultraviolet radiation). Damage to the conjunctiva from insufficient moisture is also thought to be a leading cause. Extreme focus without blinking, such as working on a computer, can lead to reduced lubrication in the eyes and the formation of pinguecula. The condition can be reversed, if not too far advanced.

Presbyopia

Presbyopia is the aging of the lens in the eye, which can make reading more difficult. This usually occurs in people over the age of 40.

Pterygium

A pterygium is a pinkish-colored patch of tissue that grows on the cornea. Pterygia can potentially grow large enough to seriously obstruct vision, but this is a rare occurrence. More often, it is a cosmetic concern since the pterygia can be seen when it becomes red and inflamed from dust or sunlight. Eye lubricants are usually an effective treatment for smaller pterygia since they reduce the swelling and redness, and thus their appearance. When they grow large enough to obstruct vision, however, surgery may be needed.

Ptosis (Drooping Eyelid)

Ptosis is a drooping or sagging of the eyelid. Congenital Ptosis is eyelid drooping that is present at birth. Acquired Ptosis develops later. Ptosis is caused by conditions that affect the muscles of the eyelid. The natural aging process can also lead to Ptosis. Depending upon the severity of the condition, drooping eyelids may be hardly noticeable or very prominent. In extreme cases, Ptosis is so bad that it blocks vision. Surgery is usually the best treatment for drooping eyelids.

Retinal Detachment

Retinal detachment is a very serious condition which can cause severe or even permanent vision loss. It occurs when the retina becomes separated from the underlying supportive tissues, which prevents the retina from functioning properly. Some common symptoms may include: spots, floaters, flashes of light, poorer vision or a shadow appearance across the top of the eye.

Strabismus Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)

Strabismus Amblyopia, also sometimes called “lazy eye,” “cross-eyed” or “wall-eyed,” is a condition that occurs when a person cannot align both of their eyes on a single object at the same time under normal circumstances. According to experts, it is estimated that roughly 5% of all children have some degree of strabismus. Movement of the affected eyes could either occur all the time (called “constant strabismus”) or under certain conditions, like high stress or illness (called “intermittent strabismus”). Children with strabismus will occasionally experience double vision as a result of the conflicting signals from their eyes. Eventually, their brains learn to disregard one of the eyes, but this does not affect the actual condition of the eye. Early treatment is strongly advised for children with strabismus because it is not a condition that children “grow out of”. Some common treatments for strabismus include optical devices, vision and muscle therapy, and, as a last resort, surgery.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

Subconjunctival hemorrhage (red eye) is a red patch appearing in the white of the eye as a result of blood vessels breaking and bleeding. Causes can include high blood pressure, violent coughing spells or blood thinners. A subconjunctival hemorrhage doesn’t cause any pain or changes in vision. It usually goes away without intervention in about a week.

Uveitis (Iritis)

Uveitis is an inflammation of the layer of the eye between the sclera and retina known as the uvea. The uvea is made up of the iris, the ciliary body and the choroid. The inflammation may involve any of the three structures and sometimes all of them. Uveitis can result from a virus, a fungus, a parasite or eye trauma. It is often associated with an autoimmune disease. Symptoms include eye pain, blurred vision, sensitivity to light and red eyes. Uveitis can lead to further problems, such as cataracts, glaucoma, vision loss or retinal detachment. Early detection is your best protection against permanent damage.

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