Eye, Eye, Eye… What’s Going On Here Then!


Nothing can instantly ruin your day more effectively than an eye or an ear that is either not working properly, or has been interfered with in some fashion. That glued up, aching ear that makes the world sound as if you were in a fish tank; or the eye that you would gladly scratch out of it’s socket can ruin your prospects before you are even out of bed. Ear and eye problems constitute a huge percent of doctors visits, whether it be here in Bali or some cosmopolitan city back in the “real” world. Here are some of the more frequent questions that pass my desk, with some common sense remedies that could save you a lot of messing.

Q. A few weeks ago, while I was trekking, an insect flew into my ear causing me a lot of distress. I was a long way from medical help, and basically had to wait for the thing to die before I got any relief. What should I do if this ever happens again?

A. Drown it! Having some creature flapping around next to your eardrum can be nothing short of torture. The sound has been compared with having the exhaust pipe of a Harley Davidson strapped to your ear. Drowning the beast is not difficult, basically any clean solution can be used. Aqua, olive oil, boor water. The most important thing to remember is that the solution must be warmed to body temperature before pouring it into your ear. Cold water on your ear drum will cause your eyeballs to roll around uncontrollably (Nystagmus). Having experienced this myself at the hands of an ill experienced doctor; I can tell you that it’s no fun at all! Once the insect has drowned, it should float to the outer ear canal and be easily removed. You might try using Hydrogen Peroxide (diluted 1:4 with aqua), as this tends to bubble and push any debris to the surface. If the insect is firmly stuck, seek medical attention to have it removed.

Q. Just this week our entire household has been affected with “pink eye”. My Balinese staff say that it is spread just by looking at someone, and that it travels “on the wind”. For this reason they insist on wearing dark glasses night and day to avoid passing it on. Can this be so, and if not, how is it spread?

A. Well the sunglasses didn’t work did they? Sorry to dispel the myth, but you could stare at someone all day and they would not catch the disease. This form of highly contagious eye infection is a bacterial conjunctivitis, and is spread by direct or indirect contact. Door handles and money have been proven to be the top offenders when it comes to spreading this and other highly contagious diseases. Think about it. How many times to you open a door each day? How many other people have opened that same door? One person rubs his irritated, infected eye, then opens a door somewhere, and bingo…….every other person that opens that same door, and then touches their face will catch the disease. Fortunately it is not difficult to treat, but you should get a definitive diagnosis from a health practitioner, who will then prescribe the correct eye drops. You can prevent passing this on to others by diligent hand washing, and avoiding close facial contact with others until 24 hours after the treatment has commenced.
Q. I have large sty on my lower lid, and have been all sorts of advice from compressing with warm tea bags, to rubbing it with a gold ring. What would you recommend?

A. I’d go for the warm tea bag myself. Heat is really the only way that you can help this unsightly lump to heal. The medical term for this is “hordeolum”, and it is basically a pimple on the eyelid. Should this lesion not show any improvement after 48 hours of applying heat, it may need to be incised (by a medical practitioner).

Q. Every time I come on holidays I am plagued by ear infections. This is really troublesome as I love swimming and surfing. Is there any way that I can prevent this from happening? I have tried ear plugs, but I still got the infection.

A. It sounds that you suffer from Otitis Externa, commonly known as “swimmers ear”. As the name suggests it is an infection that affects the external canal of the ear, and can really put an end to your holiday. Prevention is quite simple. Make sure that the ears are clean and dry after bathing or swimming. There some commercially formulated drops that will assist in preventing this condition. As far as I know they are not available here in Bali. You can make up your own solution by mixing 6 parts Alcohol 70% with 2 parts acetic acid (or white vinegar), and 2 parts sterile water (aqua); administer 3 – 4 drops to each ear after swimming or surfing. This is not a cure, but a preventative. If infection is already established, then other remedies must be prescribed by your doctor.

Q. My husband and I have been coming to Bali for many years, as we both love the surf. Lately I have noticed yellow fleshy lumps growing on the inner aspect of both eyeballs, and several of his surfing friends seem to have a similar condition. It is not painful and does not cause him any bother. What is this and how should it be treated?

A. This is a very common complaint amongst surfers and others who spend long hours in the sun. This growth is called a “Pterygium”, and is a very insidious, slow growing lesion, that rarely requires any treatment. Should the lesion grow towards the pupil, it may interfere with the visual field. Excision is then usually recommended.

Q. My 6 week old baby always seems to have watery eyes, and they are sometimes sticky when she wakes up in the mornings. I have given her a course of antibiotic eye drops, as my doctor recommended, however they still seem to be watery. Is there something wrong with her?

A. Many babies suffer from this condition. The eyes constantly produce fluid that washes across our eyeball, keeping it moist and lubricated. A small tube that runs from the inner aspect of the eye to the back of the nose, drains excess fluid away (this is why you can taste eye medicines shortly after you drop them into your eyes). In babies this tube is very small and often takes some time to become enlarged, this causes the eye to constantly look teary. This will usually resolve itself by the time the baby is about 6 months of age. Clean the eye regularly with a moist cotton pad to clear away any debris; should the eye look red, swollen or pus filled, then you should consult your health practitioner.

Q. I have been wearing contact lenses for many years, and a few days ago experienced bad pain in my left eye, my vision is a little blurred, and I have become very sensitive to light. I have had these symptoms before, and my Ophthalmologist in the States told me that there was an ulcer on my cornea, and prescribed antibiotic eye drops, and the ulcer went away with time. With my current complaint I have consulted an eye doctor in Denpasar, who says that I do indeed have the same condition, but has prescribed antibiotic drops as well as steroid drops. I am concerned after reading articles on the net that the steroids may not be the correct form of treatment. Do you have any comment on this?

A. Corneal ulcers are very tricky things to diagnose and treat (correctly). They are considered a medical emergency, and should be handled by experts in ophthalmic medicine. Some type of infection; viral, bacterial, or fungal usually causes this type of corneal lesion. The treatment differs for each cause. Steroids are extremely controversial in this condition, and while they may decrease scarring, they may also have other undesirable effects, that could be devastating in the long term. If you suffer from this condition frequently I would suggest you give up the contact lenses. Repeated infections on the cornea will cause scarring and eventually affect vision.

That’s about it from my desk for this week. A big “THANK YOU “ to the negative people that got back to me last week to register as donors…..But we still need more! For all of those lucky people going away for the summer holidays I wish you safe and happy journey, and look forward to having you back in “Paradise” in Sickness and in Health!

“ Kim Patra is a qualified Registered Nurse / Midwife, and mother of three, who has been living and working in Bali for past 15 years. She has assisted many traveller (… and others) either as a flying medical escort or just a voice on the end of the phone! Kim is happy to discuss any health concerns that your may have. Her e-mail contact is info@chcbali.com

Copyright © 2002 Kim Patra