FAQ: Cataracts

Think you may be at risk for developing cataracts? Here is an overview of the most frequently asked questions about cataracts, including potential cataract treatment and congenital cataracts. Give our office a call and schedule an appointment to have your questions answered!

What are cataracts?

Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s natural lens and are the most common cause of vision loss in the world. According to Prevent Blindness America, more than 22 million Americans have cataracts.

Who gets cataracts?

Cataracts begin to form in those over the age of 40. However, it is typically after age 60 that cataracts cause problems with vision.

Are there any signs or symptoms?

Cataracts start small and have little effect on your vision at first. However, you may notice symptoms once the cataract is well developed.

Potential symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Cloudy or foggy vision
  • Light from the sun or a lamp feels too bright or glaring
  • Oncoming headlights while driving cause more glare
  • Colors appear dimmed or faded

What causes cataracts?

As we age the natural protein in our eyes can clump together and cover a small area of the lens. Over time this may grow larger and cloud more of the lens. This cloud is what we refer to as a cataract.

Can I prevent cataracts?

It is not believed that there is anything you can do to prevent cataracts. However, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk of developing cataracts. Nutrients such as vitamin E and vitamin C are believed to reduce your risk. Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet can help. Additionally, wearing sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays can reduce cataract risk.

What increases my risk for cataracts?

  • UV radiation
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Family history
  • Significant alcohol consumption
  • Certain medications

Is there cataract treatment?

The treatment for cataracts will vary for each person. When symptoms begin to appear patients may use new stronger prescription glasses. Cataract surgery will become an option if the cataract progresses far enough to impair your vision. Cataract surgery is the most frequently performed surgery in the United States and is successful in restoring vision.

What are congenital cataracts?

Congenital cataracts occur in newborn babies because the eye’s natural lens is cloudy instead of clear. Often this results in vision problems for the child. However, this occurs in only 0.4% of all births and is relatively uncommon.

To discuss your risk for developing cataracts schedule an appointment today! The best way to prevent vision loss is by having regular eye exams.

 

Computer Vision Syndrome: Eye Strain

According to The Vision Council, 65% of adults experience some form of computer vision syndrome. Often individuals associate eye strain as a “normal” part of computer work. However, the eye strain you are experiencing is a symptom of computer vision syndrome and can be reduced or avoided!

What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome is caused by the eyes and brain reacting to the characters on a computer screen. On-screen characters have less contrast than characters in print and are more challenging for our eyes to focus on. The difficulty of having to focus on the characters on computer screens is what causes eye fatigue and strain.

Symptoms of CVS

Depending on the individual they may experience one, several, or all symptoms of computer vision syndrome. These symptoms can cause discomfort for the individual and make it difficult to complete work effectively.

  • Headaches
  • Loss of focus
  • Burning eyes
  • Tired eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Double vision
  • Eye twitching
  • Blurred vision
  • Neck and shoulder pain

Ways to Combat CVS

Many computer users find their eyes feel strained working under fluorescent lights. Users feel more eye comfort when using floor lamps instead of harsh overhead lights. Minimize the reflection of glare off your computer screen by installing an anti-glare screen on your monitor. Consider closing the blinds to prevent the sun from reflecting off your computer screen as well.

The type of screen and settings of your screen can also impact your eye strain. We recommend making sure you have an LCD screen because it has an anti-reflective surface and is more comfortable for the eyes.

Additionally, you can adjust the settings of your screen for optimal viewing. A few settings to adjust are the brightness, text, and color temperature. The brightness should be the same as your surrounding workstation, the text size and contrast can be changed to your comfort level, and reducing the color temperature lowers the amount of blue light emitted by your screen.

Computer Eyewear

One of the best ways to reduce your risk of computer vision syndrome is to visit our office. Your eye doctor can perform a few tests to detect vision problems which could be contributing to your computer vision syndrome and help decide if computer eyewear is the solution for you. Many individuals discover computer eyewear helps reduce their symptoms and improves their productivity.

Schedule an appointment with our office to discuss the impact computer work is having on your eyes and the best ways to reduce your eye strain and fatigue.

Prevent Glaucoma: Regular Eye Exams

Did you know, half of Americans with glaucoma don’t know they have it? Glaucoma is often called a silent thief of sight because the early stages often have no symptoms. In the US glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye disease damaging the optic nerve in the eye; the optic nerve connects the retina to the brain to produce sight. The most common type of glaucoma is called primary open-angle glaucoma. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, over 3 million Americans have glaucoma.

Eye pressure is a significant risk factor for optic nerve damage. We recommend annual eye exams to measure eye pressure and detect glaucoma before you lose vision.

Populations at a Higher Risk Include:

  • African Americans over age 40
  • Everyone over age 60, especially Mexican Americans
  • People with a family history of glaucoma

Symptoms of Glaucoma

Typically glaucoma has no signs or symptoms, by the time you notice your loss of vision the disease has progressed to irreversible vision loss. Regular eye exams are the best way to detect and prevent glaucoma because several tests are performed to look for signs of glaucoma.

Potential Signs/Symptoms Include:

  • High Intraocular Pressure
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Vision Loss
  • Blurry Vision
  • Distorted Vision
  • Eye Pain

Can you reduce your risk for glaucoma?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential to reduce your risk of developing glaucoma. A few ways to reduce your risk include not smoking and eating a varied healthy diet. Healthy weight and blood pressure are also essential to lowering your chance of getting glaucoma.

Recent studies have also found that physical exercise may also lower your intraocular pressure. Glaucoma development may be due to high intraocular pressure. Therefore, physical exercise and an active lifestyle are great ways to prevent glaucoma along with other serious health problems.

What Is Dry Eye?

Dry eye syndrome is caused by a chronic lack of moisture and lubrication of the eyes. Your eye’s tears keep the surface of the eye moist and lubricated, as well as washing away dust, debris, and other microorganisms.

What causes dry eye?

Typically dry eye occurs when there is a problem with your tears. Tears are made up of an oily, watery, and mucin component. Any issue with those components could cause dry eye. It could be tear instability, tear film evaporation, or insufficient tear production. The only way to detect the cause of your dry eye is an eye exam.

Symptoms

  • Burning sensation
  • Itchy eyes
  • Aching sensations
  • Heavy eyes
  • Fatigued eyes
  • Sore eyes
  • Dryness sensation
  • Red eyes
  • Photophobia (light sensitivity)
  • Blurred vision

Who gets dry eye?

Dry eye can happen to anyone at any age. Each case of dry eye varies in severity and individual tolerance. However, there are certain factors which can increase your risk for dry eyes. These factors include:

  • Computer use: Humans blink less frequently when working at computers, allowing for increased tear evaporation.
  • Smoking: Causes eyes to dry over time and is the root of various other eye problems.
  • Aging: Dry eye syndrome is more common after the age of 50.
  • Menopause: Women who have completed menopause are at a higher risk for dry eye than men of the same age.
  • Health conditions: Certain diseases have a higher risk of contributing to dry eyes- such as diabetes or thyroid diseases.
  • Medications: Prescription and nonprescription medicines can have dry eye as a side effect.

Visiting The Doctor

Getting an eye exam by an eye doctor is the only way to know for sure you have chronic dry eye syndrome. Symptoms of dry eye can vary significantly from person to person and may even be symptoms of other eye problems. Personal perception of dry eye severity does not indicate whether or not an individual has chronic dry eye syndrome. Some individuals with mild dry eye may feel their eyes are very bothersome, while some individuals with severe dry eye may not consider their symptoms significant.

If you are showing symptoms of dry eye, schedule an appointment with our office as soon as possible. The only way to know the medical severity of your dry eye is through an eye exam.

Who Gets Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is the deterioration of the macula, the small central area of the eye that controls visual acuity. Typically developing macular degeneration is a slow, painless vision loss.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

Macular degeneration is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration because it most frequently occurs in older generations. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among older Americans and will grow significantly in the years to come due to the aging of the US population.

Populations Affected

The prevalence of macular degeneration increases significantly in individuals over the age of 80. In particular, the white American population is affected the most, with 14% of white Americans age 80 and older affected by AMD.*  Women also have a higher occurrence of AMD as compared to men due to their longer life expectancy. In 2010, 65% of AMD cases occurred in women as compared to only 35% in men.*

Risk factors

  • Obesity: Overweight patients with macular degeneration double their risk of developing advanced forms of macular degeneration.
  • Inactivity: Those who perform vigorous activity three times weekly reduce their risk for developing AMD compared to inactive patients.
  • Heredity: Family history and specific genes can link to a high risk of developing AMD.
  • High blood pressure: Some studies show a link between high blood pressure and macular degeneration.
  • Smoking: Living with a smoker doubles your risk for developing AMD. Smoking is a factor in about 25% of AMD cases with severe vision loss.

Currently, the best way to protect your eyes from developing macular degeneration is to eat healthy, exercise, and wear sunglasses. Annual eye exams can detect the early onset of macular degeneration and help to preserve your vision. Schedule an appointment with our office today!

*National Eye Institute, 2010

Eye Exams 101

Regular comprehensive eye exams are key to early detection of eye-related diseases to keep you seeing your best every day. Adults should have a comprehensive eye exam every 1-2 years. Children should have an eye exam as early as 6 months, before they start school, and then every 1-2 years. If you or your family need a comprehensive eye exam, contact our office to schedule an appointment.

We often get questions about what an eye exam is like, so we’ve created an overview of a typical eye exam in our office.

Eye Exam Basics

What does an eye exam test for? Eye exams test your visual acuity and the overall health of your eye.

Why is an eye exam important? Eye exams check for early signs of serious eye and health problems; some of which may not present with any symptoms.

Who gives an eye exam? Your eye exam is performed by a licensed eye doctor.

Terms to know:

  • Ophthalmologist: An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (MD) who specializes in eye care. Ophthalmologists can prescribe eyeglasses and contacts but commonly specialize in treating medical conditions of the eye and performing eye surgery
  • Optometrist: Optometrists are eye doctors who prescribe glasses, contacts, vision therapy, and medication to treat eye diseases. Optometrists are not trained or licensed to perform eye related surgery.
  • Optician: An optician is not an eye doctor, but is an eye care professional who fits, adjusts, and repairs your eyeglasses. They can also help patients learn to apply, remove, and care for contact lenses.

What to prepare for your appointment?

Before your comprehensive eye exam, there are several materials you can prepare. First, create a list of all your prescription and non-prescription medications you take along with the dosage. This will help your eye doctor determine any vision risks you may have. Bring your most recent pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses, if you have them. Don’t forget to have a copy of your vision insurance card and other medical insurance cards with you. To learn more about the insurance providers our office accepts and other payment options, please call our office directly. Finally, bring a list of questions or concerns you may have about your eyesight to discuss with your eye doctor.

What to expect during your appointment?

Prepare for your eye exam to take an hour or more depending on the number of tests your eye doctor needs to evaluate your vision and eye health. A typical comprehensive exam is a series of visual tests to inform your eye doctor about your vision.

These tests help determine:

  • Sharpness of near and distance vision
  • Color blindness
  • Lazy eye
  • Ability to follow moving object and/or move between two separate fixed objects
  • Depth perception
  • Determine your eyeglass prescription
  • Structures of the eye
  • Glaucoma test
  • Eye drop test to look inside your eyes
  • Blind spots

What to do after the exam?

Following your exam, you will have the opportunity to explore the various frames and lenses found in our optical space. An optician will be available to assist you in selecting a pair of eyewear that best fits your lifestyle needs. If you choose to wear contact lenses, you will need to schedule a contact lens fitting appointment.

Once your new eyewear is ready to be picked-up, an optician will adjust your frame to fit you best and make it comfortable for everyday wear.

Finally, schedule your follow-up appointment for the next year. Regular comprehensive eye exams are essential in maintaining healthy vision. If you ever experience any sudden vision changes or eye injuries be sure to contact our office.

Combating Dry Eye Syndrome

Do you experience itchy, burning, or dry eyes? You may be suffering from dry eye syndrome. Tears are necessary for overall eye health and clear vision, when there is insufficient moisture on the surface of the eye it can cause discomfort. Let’s looks at some common causes of dry eye syndrome, symptoms, and risk factors.

What are the causes of dry eye syndrome?

Tears keep the eyes surfaces moist and wash away dust, debris, and other microorganisms. Without constant, adequate moisture, dry eye will occur. Not enough oil in the tears causes them to evaporate too quickly, and without sufficient water production, eyes cannot maintain proper moisture.

Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome:

  • Scratchy or gritty feeling
  • Red eyes
  • Blurriness
  • Irritation from windy conditions
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Fatigued eyes
  • Problems with contacts
  • Excessive tearing
  • Heavy eyes
  • Sore eyes

Contact lenses and dry eyes

One of the most common complaints from contact lens wearers is their contacts make their eyes feel dry. If you experience dry eye symptoms while wearing your contacts or immediately after removing your contacts, talk with your eye doctor, as it is irregular to feel discomfort.

If discomfort occurs, it is possible you are using the incorrect solution with your contact lenses; not all solutions are made equally. Your eye doctor may also recommend you use eye drops to help temporarily relieve dry eye symptoms.

Another means to relieve symptoms is to change your contact lens type to a more breathable or moisture-focused lens, which is specially made to help retain moisture. You may also want to discuss with your eye doctor the option to switch from reusable contact lenses to single-use lenses. Single-use lenses will help prevent your lens from drying out and work to maintain moisture in your eyes.

Factors that Increase Risk of Dry Eyes

Dry eye symptoms stem from multiple risk factors, including health conditions, environments, and eyewear choice. If you are suffering from dry eye try some of the tips below to help reduce your symptoms.  

  • Computer use. Humans blink less frequently when working at computers, allowing for more evaporated tears. When working on a computer for an extended period of time, follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a rest.
  • Contact lens. Dry eye discomfort is a primary reason for wearers to stop using contacts. Use rewetting drops daily or talk with your eye doctor about contact lens types that work best for your eyes.
  • Indoor environment. Air conditioning, fans, and air heating systems can decrease the humidity indoors and cause symptoms of dry eye. Try using a humidifier in your house if you notice the air getting dryer.
  • Outdoor environment. If you are outdoors in dry or windy conditions, wear a pair of sunglasses or hat to reduce your exposure to the elements which can cause dry eyes.
  • Smoking. Can cause eyes to dry over time and is the root of various other eye problems.
  • Aging. Dry eye syndrome is more common after the age of 50.
  • Menopause. Women who have completed menopause are at a greater risk for dry eye than men the same age.
  • Health conditions. Certain diseases have a higher risk of contributing to dry eye- such as diabetes or thyroid diseases.
  • Medications. Prescription and nonprescription medications can have dry eye as a side effect.

Glaucoma: The Silent Thief of Sight

Did you know, nearly 2.2 million people in the United States are affected by glaucoma?* Due to the lack of symptoms in the early stages of glaucoma, almost half of Americans with glaucoma do not know they have it; causing glaucoma to be the second leading cause of blindness in the United States and worldwide.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye condition that damages the optic nerve in the eye and, if left untreated, can result in blindness. High pressure within the eye causes damage to the optic nerve and prevents the nerve from sending messages from the eye to the brain.

Typically, there are no symptoms or pain associated with glaucoma until severe vision loss has occurred; at which point vision loss is permanent and cannot be reversed. The degree of vision loss differs from each individual.

Symptoms

  • Most often has no symptoms
  • Damage starts in peripheral vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Distorted vision
  • Vision loss

Who is at risk?

According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, African Americans are three times more likely to be affected by glaucoma, and six times more likely to suffer from blindness as a result of glaucoma. Hispanics and Latinos have the second highest risk for glaucoma. Those with a family history of glaucoma and diabetes are also at a higher risk. In order to help with early detection and to prevent irreversible vision loss, be sure to notify your eye doctor if glaucoma runs in your family or if you have diabetes.

Primary Types of Glaucoma

  • Primary open-angle glaucoma: Primary open-angle glaucoma causes peripheral vision to gradually reduce without any other symptoms. If not controlled or discovered, it can progress to tunnel vision and ultimately lead to blindness.
  • Acute angle-closure glaucoma: Acute angle-closure glaucoma, also called narrow-angle glaucoma, produces a variety of sudden symptoms such as eye pain, headache, halos, dilated pupils, vision loss, nausea, and vomiting. Each onset of new symptoms causes additional vision loss.
  • Normal tension glaucoma: Normal tension glaucoma occurs in patients with a normal pressure within their eye and typically has no symptoms associated until tunnel vision occurs.

 

*Glaucoma Research Foundation

Preventing Snow Blindness, Sunburn for Your Eyes

We take many precautions to avoid sunburn on our skin, face, and lips, but have you ever thought about your eyes? Many are surprised to learn our eyes can also acquire sunburn. This condition is known as photokeratitis or snow blindness.

What causes Snow Blindness?

Snow Blindness occurs when your eyes are exposed to ultraviolet light for an extended period of time, causing sunburn. It most commonly occurs in snowy areas because snow reflects 80% of UV rays.* Snow blindness can also occur in highly reflective environments with water or white sand.

In addition to natural UV rays, man-made sources of ultraviolet radiation can cause snow blindness. Typically, man-made UV rays only damage your eyes when the proper eyewear is not being worn. This can happen when working with a welder’s torch or using tanning booths or sunlamps.

Can I lose my vision completely?

No, Snow Blindness is temporary and doesn’t cause actual blindness, it typically impairs your vision for 24 to 48 hours.

Symptoms of Snow Blindness

  • Eye pain
  • Burning, red, or watery eyes
  • Gritty sensation
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurry vision
  • Swollen eyes or eyelids
  • A headache
  • Glare and halos around lights

Risk factors for snow blindness?

You and your family are at an increased risk for snow blindness when involved in sports with highly reflective surfaces. When skiing, snowboarding, and snow sledding, you should ensure everybody’s eyes are protected with snow goggles that provide 100% UV protection.

Altitude plays a big role in the risk for snow blindness. At higher altitudes, UV rays are stronger. Therefore, when high altitudes, such as mountains, are combined with snow, the risk of Snow Blindness doubles.

Don’t forget, water sports such as water skiing, knee boarding, and surfing require protective eyewear as well. A great option is wraparound sunglasses that block out 100% of UV rays and remain on your head throughout the duration of the activity.

How do I prevent snow blindness?

  1. Anytime you are outside, you should wear sunglasses that block 100% of UV rays.
  2. Remember, UV rays can penetrate clouds, so sunglasses are required even on cloudy days.
  3. Always wear snow goggles when skiing, snowboarding, and mountain climbing.
  4. Wear wraparound sunglasses when you plan to be on or near water for extended periods of time.
  5. Ensure you have eye shields to wear in tanning beds and booths. Never tan without eye shields.
  6. Use the recommended safety eyewear for your job if you are working with harmful light.

 

*The United States Environmental Protection Agency