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Dr Duncan

The eyes have it

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Our eyes are magical and mysterious things!

Even the way they are formed in the womb gives a hint at their double function: one part is formed from the “outside” world, or the ectoderm of the face, and the other part is derived from an out-pouching of the brain: and coming together they form our human eye.

I use the term magical because it’s through these two relatively tiny organs that we see the world and all its glorious contents as light. The retina at the back of the eyes receives these light waves and transforms them to electrical impulses to be transmitted to our brains, and it’s here that they are deciphered into conscious awareness of all that is in front of us, in beautiful 3D colour!

The mysterious side of the eyes comes from the emotional effect that they can have on us. There are literally billions of pairs of blue eyes in the world, and there are just as many pairs of brown eyes too, but a few decades back I saw one particular pair of blue eyes and it changed my life forever, and continues to do so! And I am positive that this has happened since time immemorial, and hopefully will continue until the sky finally falls in.

But today I want to write about the eyelids which cover and protect those mysterious orbs, and cover a few things that might help keep them healthy and beautiful.

The eyelids are the first line of defense for our eyes and aid in the lubrication process too. It is estimated that we blink on average 17,000 times per day which means that if we don’t take care of the inner surface of our eyelids, or  if the lid margins become scarred and distorted, then 17,000 times a day an irregular surface is going to scratch itself across your cornea and cause scarring - and this will mean permanent, distorted vision which is obviously something that needs to be avoided.

Maintaining eyelid health is normally a fairly easy process for most people, but things can go wrong. Infections can occur within and on the lid causing small abscesses, and these infections usually come in two forms:

Styes. These are infections of the roots of the eyelashes and tend to “point” toward the lid margin. They are reasonably common and in the vast majority of cases they will settle of their own accord in a few days. Avoid the temptation to self treat by squeezing or sticking a pin in them as this may well lead to lid deformities and long term problems with deformed, ingrown lashes constantly rubbing against the eye. If at all concerned, then seek medical advice.

Chalazion: or as they are sometimes known, “Meibomiam cysts”. These tend to be larger and arise from normal sebaceous cysts that are found in the upper and lower lids. Meibomiam cysts help in the lubrication of tears by adding an oily mucous to keep the surface of the eye healthy. Again these infections generally settle of their own accord but can be unsightly, and if concerned then you should consult your Doctor and do not attempt to treat it yourself. In rare circumstances, surgery is needed to deal with recurrent infected Chalazion as they can cause scarring of the inner surface of the lid.

Blepheratis is another common condition of the lid margins and happens when the surface gets “caked” in dead surface skin cells, mucous, make-up and tears. This leads to inflammation and the urge to constantly rub the eyes, which of course perpetuates the problem. Meticulous lid hygiene is vital and involves putting a small drop of Baby Shampoo on your finger and then rubbing along the lid margin to clean off the surface debris. Some sufferers of Blepharitis will need medical attention and may benefit from topical anti-inflammatory drops and antibiotics for infective flare ups.

The surface of the eyelids can also be affected by solar damage and skin cancers. Obviously this is a serious problem for the sufferer and may require the combined skills of an eye and plastic surgeon in order to completely correct the problem, but as the skin of the eyelid is fairly unique in character, a far more appropriate approach is prevention. Use sunblock to the face, wear effective sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat as this will not only help protect your eyelids but also the other more sensitive ocular structures such as the retina at the back of the eye, and the sclera, the cornea and the conjunctiva at the front of the eye.

Finally a word on make-up.

As noted, the eyelids are made up of unique skin that is also very sensitive to allergens; put the wrong chemical on them and they will swell up, go red and water and itch like fun! Use too much eyeliner or mascara and you may block the eyelash hair follicles and increase the chances of a stye - and sharing eye makeup is a “No No” as bacteria will be found on makeup and you’ll be sharing more than just a passion for colour!

It’s always good to “patch test” any chemical you’re going to put on your face or eyes by putting some on your innner forearm, giving it a firm rub for a couple of seconds and then seeing how it looks after 15 to 20 minutes. If the area is starting to look inflamed and has become itchy, then please don’t put it on your face!

I’ll leave the final word with Cheryl Cory: “For the love of God, unless you’re prepping for Rigoletto at the Met, go easy on the eyeliner.” 

Article written by Dr. Duncan Jefferson. More articles here. For more information on health care and private health cover, visit HBF Insurance at www.hbf.com.au.

The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.

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