Eye Dictionary B
baby shampoo. A non-irritating shampoo sometimes used for treating blepharitis. Read the entry on lid scrubs for more details on how baby shampoo is used with the eyes.
bacitracin. An antibiotic used primarily for eye and skin infections. It is available as an ointment, and is found in other "combination" medications like neosporin and polysporin. Interesting tidbit about this drug: it was discovered at Columbia University (my alma mater) in 1943, and derived from a strain of Bacillus bacteria found in a 7-year-old girl named Margaret Tracy. The researchers therefore named the drug "bacitracin."
(Common Misspellings: baci,bacitra)
bacterial conjunctivitis. This is an infection in the eye involving the conjunctiva skin (the white of the eye). When it comes to conjunctivitis (also known as 'pink eye') it is often hard to determine the exact cause of an eye infection ... be it allergic, viral, or bacterial. Symptoms and presentation can give us clues, however. Bacterial infections typically involve only one eye and cause a purulent (pus) discharge. This discharge can be so bad that the eyelashes glue themselves shut in the morning. Treatment is with topical antibiotics. Mild to moderate cases may be amenable to ointments such as erythromycin, while severe cases may require multiple antibiotics. I also recommend people maintain good eyelid hygiene, cleaning the debris of their eyelashes with warm soapy water a few times a day (see lid scrubs). Also, wash your hands frequently as this eye infection could be contagious, though not nearly as contagious as viral conjunctivitis. As long as the vision is unaffected, bacterial conjunctivitis is rarely serious. Any red eye, however, needs to be evaluated to rule out more serious conditions like a corneal ulcer or uveitis.
BAK. This stands for benzalkonium chloride. BAK is a preservative found in many eye drops and rewetting drops. This preservative is necessary to keep bacteria from colonizing the bottle after being opened. Unfortunately, the preservative itself is a little harsh on the cornea. This is one of the reasons why we don't recommend using drops more than four times a day. This is particularly important for our dry eye and glaucoma patients who may be taking numerous eye medications. Fortunately, there are now preservative-free rewetting drops available. Many of the glaucoma medications are now available in more expensive preservative-free versions (Zioptan and preservative-free Cosopt).
benzalkonium chloride. This is a preservative used in many eye drops to keep the bottles from being colonized from bacteria in the environment. See BAK for more information.
Bepreve. This is a prescription strength allergy drop. It is good for ocular itching and swelling around the eyes. It is usually dosed twice a day. This is one of my favorite drops and I have had good success with it. Similar prescription allergy drops include Pataday and Lastacaft.
Besivance. This is an antibiotic (besifloxacin) used with eye infections and after cataract surgery. This drug is in the fluoroquinolone class of drugs and is good for treating contact lens-related infections as well. The claim to fame with this particular medicine is that it was developed only for the eye and not used for systemic infections (or on chickens in poultry farms) so there is less chance of bacterial resistance developing. Comparable drops in the same drug class include Zymaxid (gatifloxacin) and Vigamox (moxifloxacin).
beta-carotene. This is the red-orange pigment found in carrots. It is converted to Vitamin A inside the body. Vitamin A is important in the retina for converting light into an electrical signal at the photoreceptors. High doses of Vitamin A have been used for the treatment of retinitis pigmentosa. This vitamin is also found in the eye vitamins used for the treatment of macular degeneration (see the AREDS Study for more information on this use). Beta-carotene is associated with increased rates of lung cancer in smokers, which is why smokers with macular degeneration need to make sure they read the contents of any eye vitamins they take. Smokers should also stop smoking ... but that goes without saying.
Betagan. This is a beta blocker eye drop used in the treatment of glaucoma. The generic name is levobunolol. I rarely prescribe this medication given the universal availability of timolol (which has the same efficacy and mechanism of action). Both of these drops are generic and inexpensive.
betaxolol. This is a selective beta-blocker eye drop used for treating glaucoma. This medication is similar to timolol, except it may have less systemic side effects such as bronchospasm (asthma). I don't prescribe this drop often, as betaxolol can be expensive and few of my patients complain of timolol side effects.
Betimol. A trade name for the glaucoma eye drop timolol. Timolol is a common beta-blocker glaucoma eye drop that has been around for a long time and is available in generic form.
Betoptic. This is the trade name for the drug betaxolol, a betablocker eye drop used for treating glaucoma. Unlike other beta-blockers (like timolol), this is a "selective" blocker with less systemic side effects. That being said, it is not often used because the side effects of timolol are usually negligible and timolol is available as an incredibly cheap generic.
bifocals. This is a secondary lens built into the bottom of glasses to help with reading. Though there is some historical debate, most people credit Benjamin Franklin as the inventor of the modern bifocal. There are many styles of modern bifocals. Progressive lenses are bifocals, without a visible line, that progress to a stronger view the further down the glass you look.
bimatoprost. This is the medication Lumigan, a prostaglandin eye drop used to treat glaucoma. It works by decreasing production of aqueous fluid inside the eye. This drug is also found in Latisse, a cosmetic drug used to make the eyelashes grow longer.
blepharitis. Blepharitis is a catchall term that means "eyelid inflammation." There are many causes of blepharitis, such as rosacea and sensitivity to environmental irritants. For most people, blepharitis is a self-limited condition that causes episodic eyelid irritation. Most people complain of red, watery eyes with a sandy or gritty sensation. The eyelids may look red and many people notice their eyelashes falling out. Treatment involves lid scrubs, warm compresses, and antibiotic/steroid medications to cool the eyes down. While not truly an infection or a "disease," blepharitis can be somewhat chronic and very annoying. The key is to find a combination of lid hygiene and medical treatment that keeps the eyes comfortable on a long-term basis.
(Common Misspellings: blep, blef, blepha)
blepharoplasty. A surgical procedure to remove excess skin (dermatochalasis) from above the eye. The excess skin is removed in the operating room and sewn up with a running baseball stitch. This running stitch is typically removed after a week.
(Common Misspellings: blep, blef, blepha)
Bleph-10. This is an antibiotic eye drop containing sulfacetamide at a concentration of 10%. This class of medication is often used for skin infections and to treat acne and rosacea. I rarely prescribe this eye drop because of the potential for sulfa allergy and the slew of alternative antibiotic options available today.
blind spot. The blind spot is an area in your vision where you can't see. Every eye has a small blind spot. This is due to where the optic nerve enters the back of the eye. At this insertion site, there are no retinal photoreceptors, so we don't detect light hitting this area of the retina. Fortunately, the blind spot doesn't cause problems because our other eye is able to cover this area and our brain has learned to ignore the discrepancy. Certain eye problems like glaucoma can enlarge the blind spot. You can detect your own blind spot ... try covering your left eye and hold up your right thumb at arms distance. Keep staring straight ahead, but slowly move your right arm outwards. When you are about 15 degrees out, the top of your thumb will disappear. Congratulations! You've found your "B-Spot!"
Blink. A popular brand of rewetting drop that is available over the counter. Competing brands include Systane, Refresh and GenTeal.
BRAO. This stands for Branch Retina Artery Occlusion. This is a blockage of a retinal artery in the back of the eye. The retina is very sensitive tissue. Without a constant supply of blood and oxygen from the retinal arteries, it quickly starves and dies. The cause of an arterial artery blockage can sometimes be seen (often a cholesterol plaque) during an exam. Unfortunately, there is little to be done other than evaluating embolic risk factors with heart and carotid scans. Retina specialists may perform a fluorescein angiogram to determine the site and extent of perfusion loss.
brimonidine. This is an eye drop used to treat glaucoma. The trade name for this medicine is Alphagan. A newer version is out now called Alphagan P. This eye drop is dosed twice a day.
(Common Misspellings: brim, briom)
Bromday. This is an NSAID anti-inflammatory eye drop. It is commonly used after cataract surgery to sooth the eye and decrease the chance of macular edema. Bromday contains bromfenac and its claim to fame is its once-a-day dosing.
bromfenac. This is an NSAID anti-inflammatory eye drop. It is usually known by the trade names Bromday. This drop is commonly used after cataract surgery to decrease the risk of macular edema.
BRVO. This stands for Branch Retina Vein Occlusion. This occurs when one of the veins leaving the eye becomes blocked. With this blockage, blood can't drain out of the retina, so it backs up into the retinal tissue instead. This causes swelling, then hemorrhage, with resulting vision loss. The amount of visual change is quite variable and depends upon where the blockage occurs. The occlusion eventually clears and the blood resorbs but sometimes macular edema can persist. This may need further treatment such as anti-VEGF injections (Avastin) or FLT grid laser to reduce the swelling. Neovascularization can also occur after a BRVO, though we see this more with larger CRVO.
B-scan. A B-scan is a type of ultrasound of the eye, similar to a fetal ultrasound. This is usually required to evaluate the interior eye when our view is otherwise obscured. For example, if a person has a dense white cataract, it is impossible to detect a retinal detachment or tumor inside of the eye without this technology.