Eye troubles may be among the most complicated of all human afflictions, or they may be very simple.
Inflammation of the exposed surface of the eyeball for instance, may be due to nothing more mysterious than eyelashes which have become misdirected in their growth. Instead of growing outward so that they can best perform their function of protecting the eye from dust and foreign particles and from glare, they grow inward and scrape the surface of the eyeball as they move over it. The condition, which is often called “wild hairs,” causes a great deal of pain and discomfort. Simply pulling out the lashes does not bring permanent relief, but this can be accomplished by a slight operation.
Pink-eye, or conjunctivitis, is an infection of the conjunctiva. It may be caused by a great variety of germs, such as the pneumococcus, or the Koch-Weeks bacillus. It occurs in epidemics and is highly contagious. The disease may run through a whole schoolroom.
It may be spread through the air by an affected child’s sneezing. The germs in the conjunctiva are washed down in the lachrymal duct from the eye to the nose, and hence, by sneezing are scattered on the air.
While seldom serious, in the acute stage pink-eye should always be given treatment because it may pass into a chronic stage. Often such simple treatment as rest, dark glasses and saturated boric acid solution irrigation, or 25 per cent argyrol instillations in the eye are sufficient.
Chronic conjunctivitis, or granulated lids, may also be due to infection with many different germs. The most serious form is trachoma. This is very contagious also and patients should be isolated and required to use only their own towels, handkerchiefs, etc., and have them sterilized before being touched by others. Patients should also have an individual waste basket.
That such precautions are valuable is seen in the experience of the Iowa College of the Blind. Without precautions, trachoma, when it appears in one member of a family, rapidly runs through the household. The Iowa college, in spite of the fact that there is always at least one case of the disease in the institution, has not had a single cross infection to other patients in 15 years. This has been accomplished by observation of the rules given above.
Immigrants are always inspected for the disease, and refused admittance to this country if it is found. If such precautions were not observed, trachoma would be almost universal, as shown by the situation in eastern Kentucky several years ago.