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Eeew! What's that thing in your eye???

I just got back from a nice, relaxing, 7 day, adult only vacation on the beautiful coast of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. We stayed at an all inclusive resort that had a pool with a swim up bar, that gave you a nice break from the heat of the sun in the middle of the afternoon. While sitting there, we became friends with one of the bartenders whose name was Diaz. Diaz was very impressed that we were from New York, explaining to us that it is his dream to one day come to America, specifically New York, on a vacation. I told him that one day he would hopefully be able to fulfill that dream and he shook his head and said, "I doubt it." Diaz explained that in his country, only the extremely wealthy are permitted to get a Visa that would enable them to leave the country. He asked me if I had a big glamorous job in the city, and when I told him I actually worked for an eye doctor, he asked me to take a look at his eye. He said he had this thing growing on his eye. What Diaz had, was actually called a Pinguecula (pronounced pin-GWEK-yoo-la). A Pinguecula is a yellowish bump or patch on the conjunctiva, the thin membrane that covers the clear part of your eye. This bump is a change in the normal tissue that results from a deposit of protein, fat and/or calcium, often occurring on the side of the eye closest to the nose. These growths are believed to be caused by dry eye and environmental elements such as wind and sun exposure, making people who live on the islands more prone to them. Symptoms can include redness and inflamation, irritation, dryness, itchy, sandy feeling and having the feeling like you have something in your eye every single time you blink. Re-wetting drops or artificial tears can often help alleviate these symptoms, although there is no "cure". It is not contagious or an infection, so antibiotics will not work either. If the symptoms become very severe or start to affect your vision, it can be surgically removed. Although, Pingueculas often can come back, so you would have to be very careful not to expose yourself to the risk factors. I told Diaz he was going to be just fine and to get a really good pair of UV protective sunglasses. And on a side note, the gift shop in the hotel sold 3 different types of rewetting drops. Do you think they read my recent blog entry and stocked up in case people got sunscreen in their eyes?? Mary Sweetman C.O.A. Certified Ophthalmic Assistant

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