What are the Different Types of Ocular Surface Disease?

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  • Written By: Amanda Dean
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2018
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The term "ocular surface disease" describes a range of disorders that affect the cornea of the eye, the eyelid, or special tissues in the area of the eye. Most of these conditions result in itching, mild pain, or blurry vision. Blepharitis, pterugia, conjuctivitis, and episcleritis are the most common ocular surface maladies. They are often not serious, but chronic and irritating in nature. Many symptoms of ocular surface disease can be managed with the assistance of a certified ophthalmologist, but they can rarely be cured.

Blepharitis is a common ocular surface disease. Acute blepharitis often results from a bacterial infection in the eyelid near the lashes or the glands in the area, but it may also be caused by a mite infestation. The symptoms of blepharitis include itching or burning eyes along with excessive tearing or the formation of a crust in the eyelashes. Some sufferers may feel as though they have something in their eyes and may rub their eyes to get the particle out.

In some cases, an ophthalmologist may order topical or oral medications to treat acute blepharitis. Patients actively manage their symptoms with copious hygiene in the eyelid area. Since chronic blepharitis usually has an unknown cause, it is one of the most persistent ocular surface diseases.


Pterygia is another ocular surface disease that presents itself as a lesion or a film in the eye area. If the film grows over the cornea of the eye, it may cause blurred vision or a distorted appearance to the eye. Pterygia may be inherited, though most cases occur in people who are exposed to excessive amounts of ultraviolet lights. Treatments for this disorder range from steroids or lubricants to surgery that removes the pterygium. This is often a chronic condition, as a surgically removed mass may return.

Conjunctivitis is a family of ocular surface diseases that affects the membrane between the eye and the eyelid. It is often caused by a Staphylococcus infection or other microorganism infestation and may result in chronic inflammation in the area. The symptoms of conjuctivitis include a watery or thick discharge from the eye, itching, swelling, or a crust that forms on the eyelid. This ocular surface disease responds well to treatment with antibiotics. An ophthalmologist may also recommend artificial tears or topical medications to help speed recovery.

Episcleritis often occurs alongside arthritis as people age. This ocular surface disease is associated with microorganism infection as well as wasting disorders. A person with episcleritis may experience redness in the eyes or bumps in the affected area. In most cases, the condition looks more painful and alarming than it actually is. Episcleritis is sometimes mildly uncomfortable, but may show no irritating symptoms, and most cases of of this disorder go away on their own within two to three weeks. A topical medication may be prescribed if the problem does not go away in a reasonable time frame.



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