STAT

When eye irritation is more than it seems at first glance

It started as red, watery eyes and sensitivity to light. The symptoms would get much worse before an optometrist figured out the cause.

Priya Raja’s eyes were not cooperating.

A recent college graduate, she had struggled for months with on-and-off watery, red eyes and sensitivity to light. She found it difficult to look at a computer screen at the medical startup where she worked in Cambridge, Mass., or to focus on the words on a page.

Thinking the symptoms might be due to conjunctivitis, a bacterial infection, her primary care doctor prescribed an antibiotic eye ointment. But Raja’s symptoms didn’t improve.

“I worked from home because I couldn’t handle the lights in the office, I wore an eye patch, and I had to invert the colors on my phone because it was too hard to look at the light,” said Raja, who is now 25. “And my eyes were still constantly watering.”

She wasn’t too worried, though, since after each spell of symptoms, her eyes would go back to normal

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