How I Practice Treatments

Mom Should Have Washed Your Eye With Soap!

Your eye is as dirty as your mouth.  The bacteria found on the eyeball and in the nose and mouth are very similar.  The three areas are all connected anatomically and bacteria are free to roam to and fro.  While each organ does have its own particular defense system to fight infection, the eye, by no means is “clean.”

It’s Why Your Nose Runs When You Cry

When you cry, you need to blow your nose.  When you use ophthalmic drops, you get a funny taste in your mouth.  The reason?  The tears drain right into your nose, or rather, your nasal cavity.

Tear system: a. tear gland / lacrimal gland, b...
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The Anatomical Pathway of the Tears to Your Nose

a.  Lacrimal gland – resides in the upper/outer portion of the upper eyelid

b/e.  Punctum (“tear duct”) – small pinpoint openings on upper and lower lids, near your nose

c/f.  Canaliculus – connect each puncta to the lacrimal sac

d.  Lacrimal sac – internal collection point of the tears, located on the side of your nose, just below the bridge

g.  Nasolacrimal duct – connects the lacrimal sac to the internal portion of your nasal cavity, tears empty here.

That’s proof that the two areas are connected.  Bacteria can travel in the reverse direction.

There are Two Ways to Clear Your Nose

One of the more common ways to clear your nose is by using a tissue.  The other method, preferred by all boys in the Wong household, is the reverse of blowing your nose.

The “suck” method avoids the use of the tissue and allows internal disposal of the secretions by…um, well swallowing.

My point?  It demonstrates a clear connections between nose, mouth and ….eye.

What Does This Mean?

There are a few  practical advantages to now admitting that your eye is dirty.  It helps me guide my patients with respect to their post-operative care.

First, after retinal surgery, there are always concerns about washing hair and taking a shower.  What happens if water gets in my eye?  After a reminder that the three structures are all connected, it is clear that getting water in your eye during bathing is probably pretty safe (check with your own doctor for his opinion, please).

Also, there is a fear that something may get into your eye while at work.  Remember, your eye is as clean as your nose and mouth!

Mother nature has also supplied the eye with a few ways to fight infection.  Within the tears are lysozyme, immunoglobulin and lysin – all natural elements that combat bacteria and other foreign agents.

In addition, we also recommend antibiotic drops.

So, while your eye may have the potential to be laden with dirty organisms from your nose and mouth, it is unlikely you will get anything in there that is…dirtier.  If in fact you do, mother nature and your antibiotic drops are there just in case!


Randall V. Wong, M.D.

Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist
Fairfax, Virginia

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