You’ve probably heard the word “microbiome” floating around a lot lately, especially if you’ve seen any skin care commercials. Initial microbiome findings were published in 2012, and since then, the research has only been growing.
But what is a microbiome and why are they important? Understanding the microbiome of the eye could lead to enormous breakthroughs in medicine and health.
What is a microbiome?
A microbiome refers to the collection of microbes (tiny microorganisms) present on various areas of the body. We usually talk about these microorganisms in terms of bacteria, but some amount of helpful viruses and fungi are present, too.
Microbiomes are unique to each individual. While people living in similar circumstances will certainly have similar microbiomes, yours is completely unique, never to be exactly replicated.
The most commonly researched microbiomes are those of your skin and gut, but your eyes have a microbiome, as well. In fact, your entire body is one big microbiome, so much so that if every cell containing your DNA were to disappear, they would leave behind a perfect outline of your body.
Understanding microbiomes could be key to treating many diseases. Doctors are beginning to understand the various ways in which the microbiome of the eyes contributes to vision and protects the eyes from infection.
The eye’s microbiome
Microbes on the surface of the eye have the potential to ward off unwanted microorganisms like those that may cause disease. It’s a delicate balance, though. Changes in your eye’s microbiome may leave you vulnerable to infections.
The core bacterial microbiome of the eyes includes the following:
One exciting potential in microbiome research is the possibility of improving antibiotics. Currently, antibiotics are a sort of blind fire option. They take out as many and all microorganisms in their path. It can take time for your body’s microbiome to recover after a dose of antibiotics. With further research, we may be able to create antibacterial treatment plans that don’t wreak havoc on the microbiome, thus promoting healthier and faster recoveries.
At present, researchers are looking at the eye’s microbiome as a way to create life-changing alternative therapies for diseases like dry eye, corneal scarring, and Sjogren’s Syndrome. There may also be hope for people with blepharitis (a disease involving an improper buildup of bacteria at the base of the eyelids).
Contact lenses and the eye’s microbiome
Contact lens wear appears to have an affect on the microorganisms present in the eyes. In an initial study, it was found that the bacteria present in the eyes of contact lens-wearers more closely resembled the microbiome of the surrounding skin than it did the eyes of people who didn’t wear contacts. These findings suggest that many eye infections in contact lens-wearers may originate from bacteria found on the skin.
Prescription eyeglasses have no effect on the eye’s microbiome.
How to encourage a healthy microbiome
Imbalances in the eye’s microbiome may make you more susceptible to infections. So it’s only natural to want to keep your eye’s microbiome healthy. Here’s how to avoid damaging the helpful microorganisms in your eyes.
Be careful with eye drops
Many people use eye drops to combat dry eye. If you use artificial tears, make sure that they are unmedicated. Basic eye drops should not damage your eye’s microbiome. However, try to avoid using eye drops meant for redness.
Avoid unnecessary antibiotics
Antibiotics are sometimes necessary, but more and more doctors are seeing the benefit in being more conservative with antibiotic prescriptions. Talk with your doctor about whether or not antibiotics are necessary. Also, when you start an antibiotic regime, make sure you finish it, even if you start feeling better before the end of your prescribed timetable. Stopping an antibiotic regimen too soon may help create antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Consider eye glasses
The less often you wear contact lenses, the less likely you are to disturb your eye’s microbiome. If you have an accurate eyeglass prescription, you can shop online for cheap glasses at 39DollarGlasses.com.
See your eye doctor
Maintain regular visits to the eye doctor. An otherwise healthy adult should see the optometrist every one to two years. This allows the eye doctor to catch problems early and ensures you always have an accurate prescription.