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Don’t Do These 11 Things If You Wear Daily Disposable Contacts!

Countless people around the world wear daily disposable contact lenses or dailies. These popular single-use lenses are removed and discarded at the end of each day, and a new, fresh pair is inserted the next morning. Used properly, dailies promote eye health, and they’re comfortable and convenient.

Despite the many advantages associated with wearing daily disposables, there are plenty of ways you can damage your eyes and vision — some you may never have considered.

1. Don’t Touch Contacts with Dirty Hands

Before touching your lenses, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. By touching your contact lenses with dirty hands, you transfer bacteria to your lenses, which can lead to an infection. Preferably dry your hands with a disposable paper towel rather than a cloth towel, and ensure that no remnants of the towel remain on your fingers.

2. Don’t Expose Your Contacts to Water

Any source of water, whether tap, pool, or lake water, can change the shape of your lenses and cause micro-abrasions on your cornea. Plus, the water may contain bacteria that can wreak havoc on your eye health and cause you to experience temporary vision loss or even permanent blindness.

If you must get in the water with your contacts on, make sure to wear waterproof goggles. If you do get water on your contact lenses, dispose of these lenses and insert a new pair. Exposing contact lenses to chemicals like chlorine binds to the lens and cannot be cleaned off. It then leeches onto the cornea and causes irritation.

The next time you’re tempted to swim or shower with your lenses on, think twice before doing so.

3. Don’t Reuse Your Contacts

Daily disposable contacts are designed to be thrown away after every single use, and people who reuse them risk painful and risky outcomes. Dailies are thinner, more fragile, and don’t hold moisture as well as other contacts.

Users sometimes attempt to increase the lifespan of these lenses by cleaning them in a disinfecting solution and wearing them for several days or even weeks at a time. This is problematic, as the lens material doesn’t allow for repeated disinfecting. In fact, the process of cleaning the lenses tends to be not only ineffective but also breaks down the lens itself, increasing the risk of the lens falling apart while in the eye. The risk of complications and infection is not worth the few saved bucks.

4. Don’t Insert a Dropped Contact In Your Eye

One of the perks of daily lenses is that they are less expensive (per lens) than other types of contacts. So if you find yourself dropping a lens into the sink or on the floor, don’t bother placing it back in your eye. Doing so can cost you your eye health.

Epstein Vision Care Eye Clinic and Daily Contact Lenses, Optometry, Eye Health in Vernon Hills, Illinois

5. Don’t Ever Put Contacts In Your Mouth

It seems like a funny concept, doesn’t it? You wouldn’t believe the number of people who do this. If you drop a contact lens, avoid rooting around the floor trying to find it, and if you do, definitely don’t put it in your mouth to lubricate it. Your mouth contains bacteria that can infect your eyes once you reinsert your contacts.

Play it safe by carrying around an emergency pair of glasses or an extra pair of daily disposable contacts in your bag, your car, or at work.

6. Don’t Overwear Your Daily Lenses

Wearing your lenses for long periods of time can damage your eyes, even if they’re daily contacts. The maximum recommended daily use for any contact lens is 14-16 hours, though Dr. Peter Epstein will determine the exact number of hours you should wear your lenses. Your eyes, just like any other part of your body, need to rest. Your corneas receive oxygen from the air, not from blood vessels, and while it’s healthy to wear contacts during the day, wearing them for extended periods can significantly reduce the amount of oxygen your eyes receive, which can lead to complications. If you don’t give your eyes the rest they need, your corneas might get swollen, which can lead to corneal abrasion and even bacterial infection.

7. Don’t Sleep With Your Lenses

Daily lenses should never be worn overnight. You’re risking your sight by sleeping in a lens that’s not approved for overnight use, as it can lead to ocular irritation, swelling and corneal ulcers.

8. Don’t Insert Contacts Before Completing Your Morning Routine

Avoid inserting your contacts before you shower or wash your face, since you risk exposing your lenses to tap water and the bacteria that come with it. We also recommend that you insert your lenses after blow-drying and styling your hair, especially if you’re using hairspray or other aerosols, as these products can dry out your contacts. Additionally, the spray can coat the lenses and leave a film that not only irritates the eyes, but can make it difficult to see. If you’re at the hairdresser’s and cannot remove your lenses, shut your eyes when spray is applied.

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9. Don’t Get Makeup On Your Contacts

Insert your contacts before applying makeup, because any makeup residue on your hands, such as mascara, can easily transfer to your lenses.

It’s not uncommon for people to get concealer, eyeliner or mascara on their contact lenses. If that happens, immediately remove the lens and clean the makeup with solution (while making sure to dispose of the lens before bed). Otherwise, simply replace with another lens. Avoid wearing waterproof makeup, since it can’t always be removed from your lenses, even when rinsed with solution.

To prevent makeup from getting on your lenses, don’t apply mascara all the way from the base of your lashes up. Instead, apply it from the midway point. It’s also important not to apply eyeliner on the inner lid of your eye, but rather to the skin above your lashes.

10. Don’t Wear Contact Lenses If Your Eyes Are Irritated

As the saying goes, “”if in doubt – take them out!”” If your eyes feel irritated, uncomfortable, or if you notice any pain or redness, don’t power through. If your symptoms last a while, contact Dr. Peter Epstein at Epstein Vision Care. You don’t want to let a serious infection go unchecked.

When your eyes feel more rested and are free of discomfort, put in a fresh pair of contacts.

11. Don’t Rub Your Eyes

If your eyes feel itchy or dry, or if a lens feels out of place, you may be tempted to rub your eyes. But rubbing, whether with contacts or without, can lead to long-term ocular issues. This may cause you to experience blurred vision, and may even damage your cornea. Instead, Dr. Peter Epstein can recommend eye drops to relieve any discomfort. Make sure to apply them only when contact lenses are removed.

Above, we have delved into things you should never do with daily contact lenses. Fortunately, if you do make a mistake, you can remove the lens and replace it with a fresh one. The few dollars you might save by not opening a new pack aren’t worth the damage a mistake can cause.

If you have any questions or are interested in finding out more about contact lenses, contact Epstein Vision Care in Vernon Hills today. Dr. Peter Epstein will be happy to explain how to care for your eyes and maintain your vision.

Call Epstein Vision Care on 847-955-9280 to schedule an eye exam with our Vernon Hills optometrist.

Alternatively book an appointment online here CLICK FOR AN APPOINTMENT

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Wearing Colored Contact Lenses This Halloween? Beware and Take Care!

Countless adults, teens and even children will be wearing colored contact lenses this Halloween, but few are aware of the risks involved. Ever wondered what those cat-eye contacts are doing to your eyes? If you got them without a prescription, beware of health complications.

Enjoy a safe and happy Halloween by educating yourself and others about the dangers of wearing colored contact lenses without a prescription.

Why Can Over-The-Counter Colored Contact Lenses Cause Eye Damage?

Contact lenses made to change one’s appearance go by many names: cosmetic, theatrical, Halloween, circle, decorative, colored, or costume contact lenses. While it’s illegal to sell colored contact lenses without a prescription, authorities rarely enforce the law — which means they’re still accessible in many places.

Many people believe that wearing non-prescription color contact lenses can cause no harm. This unfortunate myth has led to many contact lens complications. For instance, when a person feels that a contact lens is “dry”, it could be because the lens is not a good fit. Ideally, the lens should follow the contour of the eye, and stay centered, with enough lens movement to allow tear exchange beneath the lens.

Epstein Vision Care Eye Clinic and Colored Contact Lenses, Halloween in Vernon Hills, Illinois

Many eye diseases can be quickly and easily diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam. If you were diagnosed with an eye disease, such as Cataracts, Glaucoma, Macular degeneration, Diabetic retinopathy, or Dry eye, you may be overwhelmed by the diagnosis and confused about what happens next. Will you need medications or surgery – now or in the future? Our Vernon Hills eye doctor has prepared the following answers to your questions about eye disease.

Furthermore, non-medical colored contact lenses are often produced by unlicensed manufacturers that tend to use inferior plastic and toxic materials, such as lead (often used in lens coloring), which can get absorbed through the eyes into the bloodstream. These illegal lenses may also contain high levels of bacteria from unsanitary packaging, shipping, and storage conditions.

Therefore, purchasing any kind of contact lenses without a prescription or medical oversight can result in a variety of eye complications, such as corneal abrasions, eye sores, conjunctivitis, other eye infections, vision impairment and, in rare cases, even permanent vision loss.

Even if you have perfect vision, all contact lenses, including colored contacts, require a prescription and proper fitting by an optometrist.

Contact us at Epstein Vision Care and make an appointment with us to get properly examined for a contact lens prescription.

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The Dos and Don’ts of Colored Contact Lenses

DO make sure you undergo a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist who will measure your eyes and properly fit you for contact lenses.

DO get a valid prescription that includes the measurements, expiration date and the contact lens brand name.

DO purchase the decorative contact lenses from a reliable retailer (hint: they should demand a prescription.)

DO follow the contact lens hygiene directives (cleaning, inserting and removing lenses) provided by your eye doctor.

DO make sure to undergo follow-up eye exams as directed by your eye care professional.

DON’T ever share contact lenses with anyone else.

So don’t let an eye infection get in the way of your fun this Halloween. Wearing decorative lenses without a valid prescription can result in serious harm to your eyes, which can haunt you long after October 31st.

Get your comprehensive eye exam and contact lens fitting by an eye doctor in Vernon Hills at Epstein Vision Care.

Call Epstein Vision Care on 847-955-9280 to schedule an eye exam with our Vernon Hills optometrist.

Alternatively book an appointment online here CLICK FOR AN APPOINTMENT

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Top 4 Eyecare Tips for Summer Vacation

This summer, whether you’re headed across state lines on a family road trip, flying off to Europe, grabbing a quick weekend getaway, or taking a vacation in your own backyard, don’t forget to protect your eyes! Check out our top 4 tips for ensuring healthy eyes this summer, and remember, your eye doctor is here to help make the most out of your vision. Dr. Peter Epstein sees patients from all over the Vernon Hills, Illinois area. Let us give you the top-quality eye care you and your family deserve, not only during the summer, but all year long.

Epstein Vision Care Eye Clinic and Eye Care, Summer in Vernon Hills, Illinois

Many eye diseases can be quickly and easily diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam. If you were diagnosed with an eye disease, such as Cataracts, Glaucoma, Macular degeneration, Diabetic retinopathy, or Dry eye, you may be overwhelmed by the diagnosis and confused about what happens next. Will you need medications or surgery – now or in the future? Our Vernon Hills eye doctor has prepared the following answers to your questions about eye disease.

Don’t Leave Home Without It

If you have a chronic illness and need to head out of town for a few days, you would never leave home without your medications, right? That’s because you know that if something happens and your meds aren’t with you, you could suffer discomfort or complications to your health. The same is true for your vision. If you suffer from dry eyes, make sure to take artificial tears or medicated eye drops with you when you travel. Preservative-free eye drops are a traveler’s friend. They’re also available as individual strips, which are recommended since there’s less risk of contamination. Running low on disposable contact lenses? Include an extra pair in your carry-on suitcase and stock up on new lenses ahead of time. If you wear eyeglasses, bring a spare set and a copy of your prescription along with you, just in case they get lost or broken. We recommend speaking to Dr. Peter Epstein before you leave for vacation to make sure your vision needs are all set.

It’s Getting Hot Outside

Usually, most people think of protecting their skin from sunburns when they’re at the beach, by the pool, or just spending time outdoors.

Did you know that your eyes can get sunburned, too? This happens when the cornea is exposed to excessive UV rays. When the sclera (the white part of your eye) looks red, that’s a sign that you’ve got sunburned eyes. You might also notice symptoms like a sudden sensitivity to light, or your eyes may feel like something is stuck in them, or they could feel sore.

The best way to prevent sunburned eyes? Always wear sunglasses with 100% of UVA and UVB light blocking protection. ”

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Watch Out for the Pool

Swimming is one of summer’s greatest pastimes. There’s nothing quite like a dip in a pool or ocean to cool off from the sweltering summer heat. While you’re slicing through the water, remember to protect your eyes.

Remove contacts before going swimming, wear goggles while underwater, and rinse your eyes with cold water when you get out of the pool (it helps get the chlorine or salt out). If your eyes feel dry or scratchy after a swim, use some moisturizing eye drops to lubricate your eyes.

Back to School is Sooner Than You Think

Your kids will be back in school before you know it. Help them prepare for the upcoming school year by scheduling an eye exam now. If they need new glasses because their prescription has changed or your teen simply wants a new look for the new school year, come in to Epstein Vision Care for a consultation and take a look at the newest selection of frames and contact lenses.

Have you had a sudden eye injury or emergency while on vacation? Don’t wait until you’re back home to handle it — seek immediate care today. Certain eye injuries can damage your vision or lead to ulcers, so if you notice symptoms like redness, eye pain, changes to your vision, or flashing light, contact your eye doctor right away.

Call Epstein Vision Care on 847-955-9280 to schedule an eye exam with our Vernon Hills optometrist.

Alternatively book an appointment online here CLICK FOR AN APPOINTMENT

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School and Vision: 2 Important Partners

Like peanut butter and jelly, school and vision go hand-in-hand. Both are important partners in ensuring that children excel in their learning, extracurricular activities, and relationships with their peers.

ADD/ADHD and Vision Problems

Did you know that certain vision problems can mask themselves as behavioral or learning difficulties? In fact, education experts often say that 80% of learning is visual. A 3rd grader may be misdiagnosed with ADD or ADHD if they display behaviors like being fidgety, having difficulty focusing or concentrating, or having a short attention span. These symptoms may not always be purely behavioral; they could be vision-related. A child who experiences blurry vision, suffers from headaches or eyestrain, or itches their eyes excessively may, in fact, have a refractive error such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) or astigmatism, or another condition such as convergence insufficiency.

Epstein Vision Care Eye Clinic and Back-To-School in Vernon Hills, Illinois

Many eye diseases can be quickly and easily diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam. If you were diagnosed with an eye disease, such as Cataracts, Glaucoma, Macular degeneration, Diabetic retinopathy, or Dry eye, you may be overwhelmed by the diagnosis and confused about what happens next. Will you need medications or surgery – now or in the future? Our Vernon Hills eye doctor has prepared the following answers to your questions about eye disease.

Undiagnosed myopia, for example can cause these same types of behaviors that are commonly attributed to attention disorders. That’s because if your child has to squint his eyes to see the board clearly, eyestrain and headaches are bound to follow. Struggling with reading or writing is common too. Other vision disorders can cause similar behavior patterns. An additional challenge is that kids don’t always express their symptoms verbally, and often they don’t even realize that other people see differently than do.

This can also impact kids emotionally. When they feel like they’re not keeping up with their peers or their learning is inferior in some way, this may lead the child to act out verbally or even physically.

Distinguishing between colors is an important skill for early childhood development. While color vision deficiency affects both children and adults, kids, in particular, can experience difficulty in school with this condition. Simply reading a chalkboard can be an intense struggle when white or yellow chalk is used. When a teacher uses colored markers on a whiteboard to draw a pie chart, graph, or play a game, this can be a difficult experience for a young student with color blindness. A child, his or her parents, and teachers may even be unaware that the child is color blind.

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What School Vision Screenings Miss

Many parents believe that an in-school vision screening is good enough. However, an eye chart test only checks for basic visual acuity, so kids with blurry or double vision, for example, may be able to pass a vision screening while still struggling to read, write, or focus on the board. Children who have problems with their binocular vision, which means using both eyes together to focus on something, can pass the screening when they use just one eye to read the chart.

Studies show that a whopping 43% of children who have vision problems can successfully pass a school vision screening. This means that the vision test may fail to detect the more subtle but significant and treatable vision problems. Early detection and diagnosis is critical to maintaining healthy eyes. That’s why it’s so important to make eye care a part of your child’s healthcare routine.

The Importance of Yearly Eye Exams

The #1 way to do this is to schedule annual eye exams. Your eye doctor can perform a comprehensive pediatric eye exam to check visual acuity, visual clarity, binocular vision, and screen for any eye diseases or vision problems.

Because children develop so rapidly at different ages, it’s essential that eye exams are done at specific stages of their young lives. In fact, The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends regular eye exams at age 6 months, 3 years, before school starts, and every 2 years thereafter.

Simply being aware of the tendency to associate a child’s learning issues with a learning disability or attention disorder instead of an underlying vision problem is critical for parents and educators. Both are partners in a child’s education and they must work together to ensure that each child gets the health care and attention he or she needs.

If you notice changes in your child’s schoolwork, behavior with friends or in sports or other after-school activities, it may be time to schedule an eye exam. You’ll want to be sure that your kids have all the tools they need to succeed in school and beyond.

Call Epstein Vision Care on 847-955-9280 to schedule an eye exam with our Vernon Hills optometrist.

Alternatively book an appointment online here CLICK FOR AN APPOINTMENT

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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.

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.

 

Don’t Let Snow Blindness Ruin Your Winter Vacation

While most people have sunglasses high on their packing list for a tropical vacation, many people don’t consider it as much of a priority for colder climate getaways. But they should, and here’s why:

Wintertime vacations often include activities that involve snow and ice and in general, conditions that can lead to overexposure to UV rays from the sun. Without proper eye protection, this can lead to photokeratitis or snow blindness, a condition that results in pain and temporary vision loss.

Photokeratitis is essentially a sunburn on the eye which occurs when the eye is exposed to invisible ultraviolet or UV rays, from the sun or other sources such as sun lamps or tanning beds. It mainly affects the cornea, the curved outermost surface of the eye that plays a role in your ability to focus, and the conjunctiva, the membrane that covers the front of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid. It causes inflammation, pain and sometimes a temporary loss of vision.

Despite its name, snow blindness doesn’t occur exclusively in the snow. It can happen in any environment in which UV rays are strongly reflected including water, sand or ice as well. It is also more common in high altitudes where the sun’s ultraviolet rays are stronger and the air is thinner, which is why skiing and mountain climbing can even be more risky than summertime activities on a lower altitude. Snow and ice reflect more UV light than almost any other surface, but you don’t always feel or notice the strong glare, making snow blindness a silent winter hazard that can only be prevented by awareness.

Symptoms of Snow Blindness

Unfortunately, just like any sunburn, you usually don’t notice the symptoms of snow blindness until the damage has already been done. Symptoms usually occur several hours after the activity, so one may not realize that they were caused from snow blindness.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Burning
  • Redness
  • Grittiness
  • Tearing
  • Light Sensitivity
  • Glare or Halos
  • Blurry Vision
  • Watery Eyes
  • Swollen Eyes or Eyelids
  • Headaches
  • Temporary Vision Loss

Any vision loss that does occur will usually return with in a day or two, but the greater the exposure to the UV rays, the worse the damage that is done.

How Is Snow Blindness Treated?

There is little to do to treat photokeratitis. Just like a sunburn elsewhere on the body, it eventually heals on its own. There are however, some steps you can take to find relief from the symptoms which include:

  • Stay indoors, in a dark area until the eyes become less sensitive.
  • Wear sunglasses if it helps.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes.
  • Remove contact lenses.
  • Apply preservative-free artificial tears to add moisture.
  • Use a cold compress to soothe your eyes.
  • Try over-the-counter pain relief or antibiotic eye drops according to your eye doctor’s advice.

If your symptoms worsen or don’t improve within 24 -48 hours, contact your eye doctor immediately.

Tips to Prevent Snow Blindness

Snow blindness is actually very preventable and all it takes is a good pair of sunglasses or sports goggles. Any time you are outside, rain or shine, you should wear 100% UV blocking sunglasses. That’s right, the sun’s powerful UV rays can even penetrate clouds on an overcast day.

If you are involved in sports such as skiing, snowboarding, mountain climbing or water activities consider a pair of wrap-around sunglasses or sports goggles with shields to prevent the rays from entering from above and through the sides. Wearing a hat or helmet with a brim will also help to increase protection.

Whether you are going North, South or somewhere in between, make sure to pack your shades and protect your eyes so you have an eye-safe, fun and enjoyable vacation.