By Family Circle Editors
Photo by Stocksy

Types of eye specialists

Optician: fills lens prescriptions and makes sure you have the proper fit.

Optometrist: conducts eye exams, prescribes corrective lenses and handles some types of eye diseases (regulations vary by state).

Ophthalmologist: treats complex eye diseases and performs surgery (like cataract correction) in addition to all an optometrist can do.


Terms to know

Sty: a small, painful lump at the base of your eyelash or under your eyelid. Usually the result of a bacterial infection, it's more common in people who have rosacea or seborrheic dermatitis. 

Floaters: specks or squiggly lines that drift when you move your eyes. They most often appear when the gel-like substance inside eyes gets more liquid as you age. Annoying—but usually harmless.

Dry eye: the scratchy, gritty or sharp and painful feeling you get when your eyes don’t produce enough tears. Aging, hormones, allergies and meds such as antihistamines, decongestants and

birth control pills can be to blame.

How to Handle Pinkeye

With its red eyes, itchiness and crusty discharge, conjunctivitis can be hard to hide and highly contagious. While it often clears up in a week or two on its own—getting better in the first 24 hours—see an MD if you or your teen have pain, symptoms lasting longer than seven days or another illness at the same time. To avoid passing it on or re-infecting yourself: 

  • Wash your hands, especially if you touch your face.
  • Use a clean towel, washcloth and pillowcase every day.
  • Toss your eye makeup and contact lens case.
  • Clean your eyeglasses and case daily.

Ease Dry, Red Eyes

“There’s no single over-the-counter eye product that works for everyone,” says Anat Galor, MD,

clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Two to try:

Systane Ultra Preservative Free. Relief for irritated dry eyes in single-use vials.

Bausch + Lomb Soothe Lubricant Eye Ointment Night Time Dry Eye Therapy. The thick formula is designed for overnight relief of severe dry eye.

When Something Small Gets Stuck in Your Eye

If you’re wearing contacts, remove them. Then try to flush the lash, fleck of dirt or other pesky item out of your eye by channeling a gentle stream of cool water over it with clean hands. If using a faucet is too awkward, an eyecup or simply a clean glass of water will do the trick.

Eye Exams

How often to have one varies by age, ethnicity, history of disease and whether or not you wear glasses or contacts, so ask your doctor for a personalized schedule and follow these general eye check guidelines from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Every 5 to 10 years in your 20s and 30s
  • Every 2 to 4 years from ages 40 to 54
  • Every 1 to 3 years from 55 to 64
  • Every 1 to 2 years after age 65