Sun, Feb 04, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Cold weather leads to marked upsurge in eye problems

By Hung Su-ching  /  STAFF REPORTER

The large, sudden fluctuations in temperature over the past few weeks have brought misery to many with seasonal allergies.

Optometrists have estimated that people suffering from eye allergies have accounted for up to a third of the visits to their clinics during the period.

Lu Da-wen (呂大文) of the Tri-service General Hospital's department of optometry said allergic conjunctivitis is a common eye-related complaint.

The term commonly refers to allergic reactions in the eye that are triggered by allergens or other foreign substances.

Symptoms

The allergies result in symptoms such as discomfort, redness, itchiness, an increase in secretions, sensitivity to light and a sensation that a foreign object is present in the eye even when there is not.

Visible symptoms may include a soap-bubble-like substance where the eyelid meets the eyeball and blisters on the eyelid, he said.

Most cases of allergic conjunctivitis are not serious enough to affect the patient's eyesight or daily routine, he said, but he added that some patients induce further complications by rubbing their eyes.

This could cause pain, damage to the cornea and even affect eyesight, he said.

What to do

Treatment for the allergies includes the use of antihistamines, vasoconstrictors and steroids, Lu said.

Lu also suggested that individuals suffering from allergies find out what substances they are allergic to.

Other factors associated with conjunctivitis include the use of contact lenses and exposure to smoke, he said.

Lu said that cold compresses and face masks can alleviate some of the discomfort of allergic conjunctivitis.

Sudden deaths

In related news, the series of cold snaps that have recently hit the nation could be causing more than just itchy eyes, as the Hsinchu Prosecutor's Office reported that several apparently healthy men died suddenly of heart failure last month.

Cheung Man-Hon (張文瀚) of Mackay Hospital's emergency medicine department said that such deaths increase during the winter days between January and April.

In younger patients, the cause of death is usually heart-related, he said.

Health care providers suggest wrapping up when cold fronts strike, especially when going outside, in order to prevent sudden changes in temperature from causing the rapid contraction of blood vessels, which can then trigger heart failure.

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