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woman holding eyeIs It Eye Allergies or Dry Eyes?

Eye Allergy and Dry Eye symptoms tend to be very similar. They both include redness, itchiness, tearing, and a gritty or burning sensation in the eyes.

 

Is it really an allergic reaction, or could it be Dry Eyes? Before running to the pharmacy for some antihistamines, it would be worth digging into the cause of these reactions in order to assure that you’re choosing the right treatment option.

If you’ve been using artificial tears, prescription allergy medication, or other over the counter medicine to relieve the itchy, dry feeling, but see no improvement— it may be worth visiting the The Dry Eye Center at Chroma Optics and speaking with Dr. Dora Sudarsky, who can provide a diagnosis and solution for your condition.

What’s the Difference Between Eye Allergies and Dry Eyes?

Eye allergies, also known as allergic conjunctivitis, occur when the eyes react to elements that irritate them (allergens). One can develop eye allergies from pet dander, dust, pollen, smoke, perfumes, or even certain foods. To fight off the allergen, the eyes produce a substance called histamine, which causes the eyelids to become red, swollen and itchy — and at times to tear and burn. Those with eye allergies tend to experience nasal allergies as well, which include an itchy, stuffy nose, along with frequent sneezing.

People with Dry Eyes suffer from eyes that feel dry, itchy, swollen, irritated, and at times very painful. Dry eye syndrome can be developed as a result of genetics, age, environment, lifestyle, medications, and the overall health of your eyes. When one has dry eyes, the eyes are either not producing enough tears to keep your eye lubricated, or the tears are not composed of the correct balance of water, lipids, and mucous to maintain proper lubrication.

How Are Eye Allergies and Dry Eyes Treated?

eye drops

Eye allergies can be treated using artificial tears, medicated eye drops, decongestants, antihistamines, or anti-inflammatory medications. Depending on your specific case, Dr. Dora Sudarsky may recommend a combination of treatments.

However, if it is determined that you have dry eyes, Dr. Dora Sudarsky may suggest artificial tears or lubricant eye drops to alleviate the discomfort, and in some cases, may even prescribe drops or steroids. For patients with more acute cases of dry eyes, the doctor might suggest alternative treatment options, such as LipiFlow, True Tear, TearCare or scleral lenses.

If you’re suffering from any of the above symptoms, speak with , who will examine and thoroughly assess the source of these reactions, determine whether they are caused by allergies or Dry Eyes, and provide the right treatment.

The The Dry Eye Center at Chroma Optics services patients from South Burlington, Montpelier, Shelburne, Essex, and throughout Vermont.

Spring Dry Eyes

woman applying eyedroppers, close upSpring is a time of renewal, when the harsh winter is just a memory and the outdoors seem to beckon us to go outside. While spring may be in the air, so are allergens. Allergies during the spring season can cause dry eyes and have a particularly severe effect on people with Dry Eye Syndrome.

During the spring months, pollen, pet dander, mold, and dust can be found in the air. These airborne allergens can trigger uncomfortable reactions like itchy, red, and watery eyes, as well as sneezing and sinus congestion. At The Practice Name Dry Eye Center, we can offer you long-term relief for your seasonal dry eyes.

How Do The Seasons Affect Dry Eyes?

Although certain people with sensitivities to allergens may be more prone to allergic reactions, the seasons of the year can trigger these responses, too. In the winter, for instance, dry eyes can develop in people who live in climates with a lot of dry, cold air or strong winds. Sitting in direct aim of a heater may feel wonderful when it’s cold, but it can also dry out the eyes. In the summer when the heat is intense and people run their air conditioning systems regularly, dry eyes can develop from being in the direction of cold air.

A 5-year study found that 21% of the 3.4 million visits to an eye doctor during that time were related to dry eyes. Each year, there was a peak during April, proving that there is a likely correlation between allergens and dry eye cases.

Common Symptoms Of Seasonal Dry Eyes

The most common symptoms of dry eyes in the spring are:

  • Blurry vision
  • Burning
  • Gritty feeling
  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Stinging
  • Soreness
  • Watery eyes

It may seem odd, but watery eyes are a frequent symptom of dry eyes. It’s the body’s way of trying to self-heal the dryness by releasing excess tears, a condition called Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS). This condition gives some relief, but because these tears contain an inadequate amount of water, the relief is temporary and more long-lasting options are needed.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with The Practice Name Dry Eye Center. We have the knowledge, years of experience, latest technologies, and effective solutions to give you relief for your dry eyes this spring season.

Relief For Dry Eyes In The Springtime

Close up of blue eyeDry Eye Doctor Name treats patients from all over CITY 1, State who are suffering from seasonal dry eyes. Depending on your specific case and the intensity of your symptoms, the doctor may recommend daily artificial tears or lubricant eye drops to alleviate the pain. These can stimulate your eye’s natural tear production to moisturize the eyes and provide comfort. In some cases, prescription drops or steroids can produce similar results.

For patients with severe types of dry eyes, the doctor may talk to you about punctual plugs. These are tiny devices that are inserted inside the tear duct. They block your tears from draining out, which forces them to stay in your eye, coating and moisturizing the area.

Have you heard about scleral lenses? These are contact lenses that are made from rigid materials and contain a tiny pool of water, which provides moisture to dry eyes. Scleral lenses have a large diameter that covers the entire sclera (white part of the eye) without touching the cornea, so they can fit more comfortably. Because each person’s eye is unique, scleral lenses must be custom-fitted for each patient.

When It’s More Than Allergies

If your symptoms persist long after spring is over, and especially if they worsen, this may indicate signs of a more serious eye condition.

Examples can include any of the following:

  • Blepharitis (inflamed eyelids)
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Corneal Abrasions
  • Dry Eye Disease
  • Styes (an oil gland infection that causes a bump in the eyelid

We hope you take the time to enjoy this spring season. Should you experience any visual discomfort or are naturally prone to dry eyes, contact Dry Eye Doctor Name and the caring staff at The Practice Name Dry Eye Center. We’ll examine your eyes and discuss your personal needs to create an action plan that’s right for you.



7 Eye Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore

While we all know that regular eye exams can help detect warning signs of disease and prevent vision loss, many people fail to seek medical attention when there is an acute problem with the eye. In fact, only about half of Americans that are at risk for serious vision loss have been examined by an eye doctor within the last year, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

While it’s true that some eye symptoms resolve on their own, it’s better not to take the chance when your eyesight is at risk. Here are seven eye symptoms that should be checked out by an eye doctor immediately, as they could indicate a serious underlying condition that could threaten your vision. Remember, even if you think the issue is minor, getting proper medical attention could be vital to saving your vision. 

  1. Frequent Floaters

    Floaters are shadows or spots that appear to float through your field of vision, particularly when you are looking at a solid colored or bright background such as the blue sky or a white wall. They can appear in a variety of shapes such as a shower of dots or mosquito shaped for example. It is common to see floaters on occasion, however if you experience a sudden increase, especially in combination with pain, flashes or loss of peripheral vision, you should see a doctor immediately. Flashes of light may appear as a quick spark or jagged streaks of light or arcs among other shapes. This could be a sign of a very serious problem such as detached or torn retina, a hemorrhage or bleeding inside the eye, an inflammation of the vitreous or retina caused by an infection or injury or an eye tumor. In the case of a retinal detachment, the different pattern of floaters or flashes depend on how the retina tears, so if you suddenly notice a distinct pattern of floaters or light in your vision, don’t delay: seek medical attention within 24 hours. 

  2. Persistent Redness or Irritation

    While minor redness can simply be a result of allergies, exhaustion or extended contact lens wear, there are some more serious causes of eye redness, especially if it persists or is accompanied by pain, swelling, discharge, vision disturbance or severe itchiness. Along with conjunctivitis (or pink eye) which can be a very contagious eye infection, redness can indicate a corneal scratch, uveitis or glaucoma. 

  3. Excessive Watery Eyes 

    Whether you have a foreign object in your eye or are experiencing dryness due to allergies or environmental factors, eye watering is a natural response to keep your eyes healthy, comfortable and safe. When it is constant and disruptive, however, this is no longer normal. Excessive eye watering could indicate a chronic condition such as dry eye syndrome, tear duct problems or problems with the cornea such as a scratch or an ulcer.

  4. Foreign Body in the Eye

    If you experience a foreign object in your eye, the first thing to do it try to flush it out. Never rub the eye as it could cause even greater damage. If your efforts to flush the object out are not successful it is time to see a doctor. Additionally, if you are experiencing vision disturbances, pain or redness while the object is there or after you think you have removed it, see an eye doctor immediately. 

  5. Ptosis (Droopy Eyelid) 

    Ptosis or drooping eyelids is seen in one or both eyelids and can be caused by benign conditions such as allergies or merely part of the aging process. Nevertheless, it can also be a sign of a serious condition such as nerve damage, a stroke, brain tumor or a condition called myasthenia gravis, which is a neurological condition that affects the muscles of the eye. It is also sometimes a result of eye surgery or injury. Often ptosis will resolve gradually on its own, however it is something that should be checked out, especially if it occurs suddenly, to ensure there is no serious underlying cause. 

  6. Bleeding Eyes 

    A subconjunctival hemorrhage in the eye is when a blood vessel right under the surface of the eye breaks. You will see that the white part or sclera of the eye has turned red. Usually, this common occurrence is nothing to be concerned about as this can happen from something as simple as straining, a sneeze or cough. In this case there is nothing to do and it will resolve on its own. If however, the redness comes after an injury to your eye or head it could indicate that there is bleeding in the brain and should be examined immediately.

  7. Moderate to Severe Eye Pain 

    There are several causes of eye pain, the most serious of which is acute angle closure glaucoma or uveitis. Other causes of pain can include corneal abrasions and ulcers, scleritis, orbital cellulitis and sinusitis. 

When it comes to problems with the eye, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and get them checked out. Doing otherwise, could cost you your eyesight. Your eye doctor can help.

Women’s Eye Health – 7 Tips for Optimal Vision for Life

April is Women’s Eye Health Month in the USA and May is Healthy Vision month in Canada too, so let’s take the opportunity to look at some tips for maintaining eye and vision health, with a special focus on women.

Statistically, women are more at risk than men for eye disease, visual impairment and blindness, especially after age 40. In fact, when it comes to serious age-related eye diseases, women represent well over half of the cases, with 61% of glaucoma cases and 65% of age-related macular degeneration cases being female. Women are also more prone to cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye syndrome and untreated refractive errors.

One of the reasons for women’s increased risk of age-related eye disease is that they statistically live longer than men. In fact, a recent study showed that there are twice as many women than men over the age of 85 in America. Additionally, not only are they living longer but they are sometimes they’re working longer as well, which often involves added computer and device use, so they tend to suffer more from conditions exacerbated by blue light and ultraviolet exposure such as dry eyes and eyestrain.

The good news is there are certain lifestyle changes that women can make to reduce that increased risk of developing age-related eye diseases. In many cases, blindness and visual impairment are preventable or treatable with proper awareness and precautions.

Here are seven lifestyle tips to protect your eyes and vision and reduce your risks of vision-threatening eye diseases:

  1. Protect your eyes from UV exposure.
    UV radiation has been implicated as a risk factor for a number of eye diseases including macular degeneration and cataracts. Sunglasses should be more than a fashion statement, they should have high quality lenses that fully block UVA and UVB rays. Further, sunglasses shouldn’t be reserved for the summer. UV rays can penetrate clouds and bounce off snow and water, so rock your shades year round, any time you go outside.
  2. Exercise regularly and eat a proper diet.
    Studies show that regular exercise and a diet rich in a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins and fats promotes eye health. Reduce sugar, processed foods, and white flour and of course refrain from smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. This is the recipe not only for improved eye health, but for the health of your whole body and mind as well.
  3. Take care of chronic conditions.
    If you have diabetes, high blood pressure or chronic stress, managing these conditions will reduce your chances of developing eye diseases. Make sure you take care of your overall health, as it is all related to the health of your eyes.
  4. Throw away expired makeup and skincare products, and replace brushes periodically.
    Many women habitually use makeup and skincare products beyond their expiration dates. This can be problematic, especially with liquid products and those that you apply close to the eyes, as they can carry harmful bacteria which can cause infections and irritation. Check your products regularly and toss any that are past their prime.
  5. Clean eyes from makeup daily.
    Eye cosmetics are a frequent cause of dry eye, as they can block glands within the lids. Beyond eye irritation, styes or other eye infections can result, so do yourself a favor and clean your eyelids are carefully at the end of the day.
  6. Steer clear of over-the-counter contact lenses.
    Colored contact lenses in particular are frequently worn by women. It is important to be fitted by a trained eye care professional for any pair of contact lenses, even if you don’t need vision correction. Contact lenses bought without a prescription and proper fitting can seriously damage the eyes.
  7. Schedule regular eye exams.
    Many of the serious eye diseases mentioned above require early diagnosis and treatment to prevent vision loss. When caught early, vision can be saved or restored; otherwise permanent damage can occur. That’s why it’s critical to schedule comprehensive eye exams on a regular basis to check in on your eye health and identify any early signs of disease. Your eye doctor should also know about your family history and any other relevant lifestyle concerns that may put you at a higher risk of certain conditions.

Vision loss can be a devastating blow to one’s quality of life and independence, but so much of it can be prevented. Education and lifestyle changes can be key to helping women to live a long life with clear vision and healthy eyes.

Ultraviolet Light and your Eyes

If you want strong, healthy eyes and clear vision for life, a major step you can take is to protect your eyes from UV radiation.  Wearing proper eye protection from the sun reduces the risk of a number of eye diseases and other conditions that are caused or worsened by UV exposure.  

Eye Diseases Linked to UV Exposure

UV exposure has been linked to a number of serious eye diseases including macular degeneration and cataracts. 

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a condition in which the macula of the eye breaks down, leading to a loss of central vision and is a leading cause of age-related vision loss.  Macular degeneration develops over time so a lifetime of exposure to UV can contribute it’s likelihood.  

Cataracts

Cataracts occur when the natural lens of the eye becomes clouded, resulting in blurred vision and eventually blindness. The len is responsible for focusing the light that comes into the eye, allowing clear vision. Cataracts can be treated by a simple surgery to replace the clouded lens with an artificial lens.  UV light contributes to certain types of cataracts, which account for about 10% of all cases. 

Skin Cancer

Another serious disease that can affect the eyes is skin cancer which can appear on the eyelids or the area around the eyes.  Skin cancer is known to be linked to extended exposure to UV and your eyes can be a difficult area to protect with sun block as you don’t want it to get too close to the eyes. 

Other Eye Conditions Linked to UV Exposure

Photokeratitis or Corneal Sunburn

Photokeratitis or a corneal sunburn in layman’s terms can occur with intense exposure to the sun without proper eye protection. It is commonly experienced after a day skiing or snowboarding at a high altitude or at the beach. Corneal sunburns can be extremely painful and can sometimes cause a temporary loss of vision. 

Pterygium 

Pterygium, also known as “surfer’s eye” is a growth that forms on the conjunctiva which is a layer over the sclera or the white part of your eye. Sometimes they grow onto the cornea as well. Often pterygia are harmless but if they grow too large they may begin to impact your vision. In this case, surgery may be necessary. Pterygia are commonly found in individuals who spend a significant amount of time outside in the sun or wind. 

How to Properly Protect Your Eyes From UV

The more time you spend outside, the greater the risk for your eyes, however you can easily minimize this risk with proper protection. Here are a few tips to ensure you are doing what you can to safeguard your eyes:

Proper Sunglasses

Fully protective sunglasses should block out 99-100% of UV-A and UV-B rays. You can achieve this through purchasing a pair of sunglasses, applying a UV blocking coating to your glasses or opting for photochromic lenses which are eyeglass lenses which turn dark when exposed to sunlight. Most contact lenses will also have UV protection but this is just for the area of the eye covered by the lens. 

Since UV exposure can enter from the air, the ground or from the sides, wrap-around and large lensed frames can provide added protection.

Add a Wide Brimmed Hat

A wide brimmed hat or visor will stop about half of the UV rays from even reaching your eyes as well as reduce the exposure coming in from the top or sides of your sunglass frames. 

Know Your Environmental Risk Factors

UV exposure is largely dependent upon your location and your surroundings. If you are located at a high altitude you will likely be exposed to more UV than at lower altitudes.  UV also reflects off of snow, sand, water and even asphalt so be aware that you are getting increased exposure under these conditions.   

Know Your Additional Risk Factors

There are a number of other factors that can increase your exposure or risk of eye damage from UV.  For example, certain medications increase the sensitivity of your eyes and skin to sunlight (speak to your doctor about any medications you are on). Previous eye surgery or eye diseases can also increase your risk factors for UV eye damage. Additionally if you work in certain fields such as welding or medical scans or radiation or use tanning beds, you can be exposed to additional UV radiation. If there is nothing you can do to change your exposure, make sure you are properly protecting your eyes with goggles or glasses and a hat. 

Regular Eye Exams

Make sure you schedule a comprehensive eye exam on a regular basis to ensure your eyes are healthy.  If you are over 50 or have increased risk factors for eye disease, you should schedule exams at least on a yearly basis or according to your eye doctor’s recommendations. 

 

Should I Be Concerned When My Eyelid Twitches?

We all experience the occasional eyelid twitch, which is when the muscle of the eyelid spasms involuntarily. Usually, it comes and goes without intervention and while sure, it can be irritating, is a twitching eyelid ever something to be concerned about?

An eyelid twitch, also known as a myokymia, can affect the upper or lower lid and usually lasts for at least a few seconds and then may continue off and on for a few minutes. Usually unpredictable, twitching episodes can last several days and sometimes they may go away and then return weeks or months later. 

Causes of Eyelid Twitching

Although they may be bothersome, most eyelid twitches are nothing to cause concern and usually resolve on their own. However, in some rare cases, they may be a sign of a more serious problem, especially if they are accompanied by other symptoms – we will discuss this further below. 

Some known causes of eyelid twitches include:

 

  • Fatigue or lack of sleep
  • Stress
  • Eye irritation or dry eyes
  • Medications
  • Alcohol or caffeine
  • Physical exertion
  • Allergies
  • Eye strain (such as with extended digital device use)
  • Poor nutrition

 

Preventing and Treating Eyelid Twitching

Usually eyelid twitching will resolve itself within a couple of days or weeks but if it persists try to determine the cause in order to speed up the process. Consider going to bed a little earlier, cutting out caffeine or alcohol or finding ways to reduce or manage your stress. You can also try lubricating eye drops to add moisture to your eyes. If you take notice of when the spasms are happening and what else is going on in your life at that time (time of day, food intake, stress level, exhaustion) you can make some changes that will stop or prevent eye twitching from occuring. 

If you notice eye twitching in addition to vision disturbances or eye strain, contact your doctor for a vision assessment as it could be a sign of a refractive change. 

When is Eyelid Twitching a Concern?

If the eyelid spasms don’t pass and become chronic it may be a sign that you have a condition called benign essential blepharospasm. This condition is when the eye muscles blink uncontrollably and it usually affects both eyes. While the cause of blepharospasm is not known, it is more common in middle age women and there are a number of conditions that can exacerbate symptoms including: 

  • Eye inflammation (blepharitis) or infection (pink eye)
  • Dry eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Alcohol, caffeine or tobacco
  • Irritants or allergens in the environment

Blepharospasm is usually a progressive condition that can eventually lead to spasms in other muscles in the face, blurred vision and light sensitivity. The condition is sometimes treated with medication or Botox (botulinum toxin) to temporarily reduce the spasms and in severe cases, surgery may be performed to remove some of the muscles that are affected. 

On very rare occasions eye twitching can be a symptom of a more serious disorder affecting the brain or nervous system, however, usually it will be accompanied by other symptoms. Examples of such conditions include: glaucoma, hemifacial spasms, Parkinson’s disease, Bell’s palsy, multiple sclerosis, dystonia, and Tourette’s. A corneal scratch or abrasion can also be a cause of the eyelid muscle spasm. 

If you experience any of the following symptoms along with your eye twitching, see your doctor as soon as possible: 

  • Twitching that continues for more than a few weeks
  • Twitching that spreads to other areas of the face
  • A drooping upper eyelid
  • Red, irritated or swollen eyes 
  • Discharge coming from the eye
  • Spasms that cause the eyelid to close completely or difficulty opening the eyelid. 

In most cases, eye twitching is not something to worry about, but when you do experience a spasm it is worthwhile to take note of the circumstances so you know when your body is trying to tell you that something is out of balance. 

Signs of Eye and Vision Problems in Infants

Infant Eyesight

Despite nine months of growth in utero, babies are not born with fully developed eyes and vision – just like they can’t walk or talk yet. Over the first few months of life, their visual systems continue to progress, stimulated by their surroundings.

Babies will develop the ability to track objects, focus their eyes, and move them like a team. Their visual acuity will improve and they will gradually be able to see more colors. They will also form the neural connections that will allow them to process what they see, to understand and interact with the world around them. 

Healthy eyes and good vision are necessary for proper and timely progress; ocular or visual problems can lead to developmental delays. 

So how do you know if your infant is developing normally? What can you do to ensure your baby’s eye health and vision are on track? While infant eye problems are not common here are some steps you can take to ensure your child’s eyes are healthy. 

#1 Schedule a six month check-up.

It is recommended to get the first professional comprehensive eye and vision exam for your child between six and 12 months of age. 

Your optometrist should check for the following skills at the 6-month checkup:

  • Visual acuity (nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism)
  • Eye muscle and movement capabilities
  • Eye health

If you have any concerns prior to six months, don’t hesitate to take your baby for an exam earlier. 

#2 Engage in visually stimulating play.

Incorporating visually stimulating play for your child will help develop visual processes like eye tracking and eye teaming. 

A baby’s initial focusing distance is 20-30 cm, so to nurture healthy vision skills, keep high contrast “reach and touch” toys within this distance. Alternate right and left sides with each feeding, and provide toys that encourage tracking of moving objects to foster eye-hand coordination and depth perception.

Pediatricians in North America recommend that NO screen time be allowed under the age of 2, as many forms of development may be delayed from premature use of digital devices. 

#3 Be alert to eye and vision problems.

Keep an eye out for indications of an eye health problem, and contact an eye doctor to discuss any concerns you may have. Some symptoms to pay attention to include:

  • Red eyes or eyelids, which may or may not be accompanied by discharge and crusty lids. This may indicate an eye infection that can be very contagious and may require medication. 
  • Excessive eye watering or tearing. This may be caused by a problem with the tear ducts, such as a blockage.
  • Extreme light sensitivity. While some light sensitivity is normal, significant sensitivity to light can be a sign of disease or elevated eye pressure. 
  • Eye “jiggling” or bouncing. This suggests a problem with the muscle control of the eyes.
  • Eye turn. Whether it is an eye that seems to cross in or a “lazy eye” that turns out, this is often associated with a refractive error or eye muscle issues that could require treatment such as eyeglasses, vision therapy, patching or surgery.
  • White pupil. This can be a sign of a number of diseases, including cancer. If you see this have it checked out immediately. 

Since your infant’s eyes are still maturing, any issues that are found can likely be corrected with proper care and treatment. The important thing is to find a pediatric eye care provider that you trust because you will want to regularly check the health of your child’s eyes to ensure proper learning and development throughout infancy and beyond.

AMD Awareness Could Save Your Vision

It’s that time of the year again. Each February, the optometric community bands together to create awareness about age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a leading cause of vision loss for people 50 years and older; early detection plays a key role in the outcome of the disease. That’s why bringing awareness to the disease and its risk factors is so important. 

Macular degeneration is a disease that damages the macula, which is a small area in the center of the retina responsible for sharp, clear central vision. The disease comes in two forms, wet AMD and dry AMD. The most common form, dry AMD, which affects around 80% of AMD patients, is when the macula gradually thins, and small clusters of protein called drusen begin to grow. Drusen result from cells in the macula that cannot rid themselves of metabolic waste called lipofuscin. The lipofuscin accumulates as drusen which causes a gradual vision decline. 

Dry AMD can turn into wet AMD when abnormal new blood vessels grow through breaks in a membrane layer of the thinning macula. The fragile blood vessels leak fluid into the macula, causing rapid decrease in central vision.The wet form is less common, yet it can cause a faster and more drastic vision loss. If a person has dry AMD which turns into wet AMD, this should be treated as soon as possible, as within days this can cause permanent scarring. Fortunately, there is effective treatment for wet AMD if detected before scarring arises. 

Both forms of AMD result in a loss of central vision, while peripheral vision stays intact. Symptoms can present as difficulty focusing on objects in front of you, or a blurred or dulled area in the central visual field which leads to having trouble reading, doing close work, driving or even recognizing faces. With time, the size of the blurred area can grow and eventually develop into black spots in central vision. Oftentimes patients don’t even notice symptoms until a significant amount of damage has been done. This is why regular eye exams are critical, especially if you are at risk. 

While AMD alone won’t cause complete blindness, it can cause a permanent, total loss of central vision if not treated. Vision loss can lead to a condition called low vision which can have a very serious impact on daily living and require a lot of assistance both by vision devices and the help of others. 

Are You at Risk? 

As it is an age-related disease, age is a significant risk factor for AMD, specifically once you reach 60. However, age is not the only risk factor. While some risk factors for AMD cannot be controlled there are lifestyle factors that you can change to prevent AMD.

Other than age, risk factors include:

  • Family history: If you have a family history of AMD, you are more at risk. Research has identified at least 20 genes that are associated with AMD, showing there is a genetic factor.
  • Race: Caucasian descent is a higher risk factor for AMD, and in fact, Caucasians with light irises have an increased risk from age 50.
  • Smoking: Smoking doubles your risk of developing AMD. 
  • Overweight/Obesity: Research shows that being overweight is a risk factor for AMD.
  • Having heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol increase your risks.
  • Diet: An unhealthy diet rich in saturated fats is a significant risk factor.
  • Early exposure to UV light and blue hazard light (especially with the younger generation having increased exposure to digital devices) can cause early onset AMD. 

Here are some lifestyle steps you can take to reduce your risk of AMD:

  • Stop smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids, (from fatty fish or flax seeds), leafy greens and colorful fruits and vegetables. 
  • Know your family history.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Protect your eyes using UV protection and blue blocker coatings on eyeglasses.
  • Get regular eye exams.

In addition to a comprehensive eye exam, your doctor may be able to test for certain risk factors. For example, there is now technology available that can test for lutein levels via technology such as QuantifEye and Macuscope, (low lutein can indicate increased risk). In addition, genetic testing is also now available through a simple cheek swab to determine an individual’s risk for developing AMD. 

Treatment

There is no known cure for AMD, however there are treatments available that may slow the progression of the disease. For dry AMD, studies (AREDS and AREDS2) have concluded that a particular high-dose combination of nutritional supplements taken daily can slow the disease. The combo includes vitamins C and E, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Zinc and Copper. For wet AMD, the goal is to reduce the growth of abnormal blood vessels and the leakage that takes place and this is done through certain medications called anti-VEGFs which are injected into the eye or with laser surgery. 

Untreated macular degeneration can have devastating effects on your independence and quality of life. If you are 50 or over, speak to your eye doctor about your risk factors and what you can do to prevent AMD. 

Trouble Seeing at Night? All About Night Blindness

At this time of year when the sun sets early, many people are affected by night blindness. Night blindness or nyctalopia refers to difficulty seeing at night or in poor or dim lighting situations. It can be caused by a number of underlying conditions, sometimes completely benign and sometimes as a symptom of a more serious eye disease. So, if you are experiencing trouble seeing in low light, especially if it is a sudden onset of the condition, it is worth having it checked out by your eye doctor. 

Signs of Night Blindness

The main indication of night blindness is difficulty seeing well in dark or dim lighting, especially when transitioning from a brighter to a lower light environment, like walking from outside into a dimly lit room. Many experience difficulty driving at night, particularly with the glare of the streetlights or the headlights from oncoming traffic. 

Causes of Night Blindness

Night blindness is a condition that can be present from birth, or caused by a disease, injury or even a vitamin deficiency. In order to treat the condition, your eye doctor will need to determine the cause. Here are some of the common causes:

  • Nearsightedness (myopia) – many people with nearsightedness (or difficulty seeing objects in the distance) experience some degree of night blindness, especially when driving. 
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa – a genetic condition in which the pigmented cells in the retina break down causing a loss of peripheral vision and night blindness. 
  • Cataracts – a clouding of the natural lens of the eye causing vision loss. 
  • Glaucoma – a group of diseases that involve damage to the optic nerve and subsequent vision loss. 
  • Vitamin A Deficiency – vitamin A or retinol is found in greens (kale, spinach, collards, broccoli etc.), eggs, liver, orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, mango etc.), eggs and butter. Your doctor may also prescribe Vitamin A supplements if you have a serious deficiency. 
  • Eye Surgery – refractive surgery such as LASIK sometimes results in reduced night vision as either a temporary or sometimes a permanent side effect. 
  • Injury – an injury to the eye or the part of the brain that processes vision can result in reduced night vision. 
  • Uncorrected Visual Error – many people experience better daytime vision as the pupils are smaller and provide greater depth of field to compensate for any vision problems. At night, the pupils dilate, so blur is increased from uncorrected nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism or distortions/aberrations on the cornea from refractive surgery. Even a slight prescription for someone who may not need glasses during the day can make a significant improvement in night vision. 
  • Eyewear Problems – even if your vision correction is accurate, badly scratched glasses or poor/defective lens coatings can also cause trouble seeing at night. Special lens coatings are now available on glasses for night time and foggy conditions.

Treatment for Night Blindness

Some causes for night blindness are treatable, while others are not, so the first step is a comprehensive eye exam to determine what the root of the problem is. Treatments range from simply purchasing a special pair of glasses, lens coatings or contact lenses to wear at night (for optical issues such as myopia) to surgery (to correct the underlying problem such as cataracts), to medication (for diseases like glaucoma). In some cases, your doctor may recommend that you avoid driving at night. During the day, it may help to wear sunglasses or a brimmed hat to ease the transition indoors.

As with any change in vision, it is critical to get your eyes checked as soon as you begin to experience symptoms, and on a routine basis even if you’re symptom-free. Not only will this improve your chances of detecting and treating a vision-threatening disease if you have one brewing, but treatment will also keep you more comfortable seeing in low-light, and keep you and your loved ones safe at night or in poor light conditions. 

The Sneak Thief of Sight

It’s that time of year again. January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, a time set aside each year to create awareness about this potentially devastating disease. The reason awareness about glaucoma is so important is because as its nickname, The Sneak Thief of Sight, describes, the disease often causes permanent damage to your eyes and vision without any noticeable symptoms, until it’s too late. In fact, up to 40% of your vision could be lost without any noticeable symptoms. This is why awareness and early detection are essential for effective treatment.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the leading cause of permanent blindness worldwide. It is a group of eye diseases that results in damage to the optic nerve, which can lead to vision loss and eventual blindness.

Most cases of glaucoma occur without obvious symptoms. Often people think they will experience headache or eye pain, however this is largely a misconception. There are several types of glaucoma and only one, angle closure glaucoma, typically presents with pain.

Treatment for Glaucoma

While there is still no cure for glaucoma, there are medications and surgical procedures that are able to prevent and slow any further vision loss. However, any vision that is lost is irreversible, usually. Again, this is why early detection is key to stopping and preventing vision loss and blindness. Glaucoma screening includes a number of tests. Many people believe the “air-puff” test used to measure eye pressure is what detects glaucoma, but this is not the whole picture. In fact, many people can develop glaucoma with normal eye pressure. Today newer technologies are available, such as OCT (like an ultrasound), which allow eye doctors to look directly at the optic nerve to assess glaucoma progression. The treatment plan depends on a number of factors including the type of glaucoma and severity of the eye damage.

While anyone can be affected by glaucoma, there are certain risk factors that are known to increase the likelihood of getting the disease. Being aware of the risk factors and knowing whether you are at higher risk puts you in a better position to take steps toward prevention, including regular screenings by an eye doctor. Here are some of the major risk factors:

Glaucoma Risk Factors

  • Over 60 years old (over 40 for African Americans)
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • African or Hispanic descent
  • Previous eye injury or surgery – even a childhood eye injury can lead to glaucoma decades later
  • Diabetes
  • High nearsightedness or farsightedness
  • Cortisone steroid use (in the form of eye drops, pills, creams etc.)

Glaucoma Prevention

Now that you know the risk factors, what can you do to prevent glaucoma? Here are some guidelines for an eye healthy lifestyle that can prevent glaucoma, as well as many other eye and not-eye related diseases:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Exercise daily
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Prevent UV exposure (by wearing sunglasses, protective clothing and sunscreen when outdoors)
  • Get regular comprehensive eye exams – and make sure to tell your eye doctor if you have risk factors for glaucoma
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in a large variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, vitamins A, C, E and D, zinc and omega 3 fatty acids

Even if you have 20/20 vision, you may still have an asymptomatic eye disease such as glaucoma. Glaucoma Awareness is step one in prevention but there is a lot more to do to keep your eyes and vision safe. During January, make a commitment to take the following additional steps toward glaucoma prevention:

  1. Assess your risk factors
  2. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam and discuss glaucoma with your eye doctor. Even if you feel you have clear vision, it is worthwhile to book an eye exam in order to detect eye diseases such as this “Sneak Thief”.
  3. Adopt the healthy, preventative lifestyle guidelines outlined above
  4. Spread the word. Talk about glaucoma to friends and family to ensure that they too can become aware and take steps to prevent glaucoma from stealing their sight.

 

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