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.

 

Eye Allergies in Every Season

Eye allergies are caused by the same substances that give you a runny nose and sneezing. Individuals with seasonal allergies typically experience various reactions to their allergens such as sneezing, itchy eyes, or a headache. Symptoms of eye allergies include itching, redness, burning, and clear watery discharge. Additionally, you may notice dark circles under the eyes and puffy eyelids. It is essential to manage your allergies to prevent these allergy symptoms and other eye infections related to seasonal allergies.

Winter Allergies

Indoor allergens are the most common cause of eye allergies during the winter months. Spending more time inside with the house closed up tends to worsen these allergens. We recommend using mite-proof bedding to limit exposure to dust mites. Frequently wash bedding, blankets, and furniture to decrease allergy symptoms from both dust mites and pet dander. Additionally, using a dehumidifier is the best way to control mold in your home mainly focused on basements and bathrooms.

  • Dust Mites
  • Mold
  • Pet Dander

Spring Allergies

Spring can be a dreaded season for seasonal allergy sufferers. Pollen is the primary cause of reaction during the spring months. With the trees, flowers, and plants coming into bloom their pollen can severely irritate your eyes. Wearing glasses or sunglasses outdoors can help to prevent pollen from entering your eyes.

  • Tree Pollen
  • Flower Pollen

Summer Allergies

During the summer months, grass pollen and mold spores are the most common allergens. On high pollen count days, we recommend staying indoors as much as possible. To limit your exposure to allergens we recommend keeping your windows closed and using air conditioning in your car and home. Avoid using fans, as they can draw pollen and mold into the house.

  • Grass Pollen
  • Molds Spores

Fall Allergies

As fall comes around, seasonal allergies come back on the horizon. Check the pollen count and avoid spending time outside during peak pollen times. Mold spores begin to grow on damp leaves in the fall. While it can be challenging to prevent seasonal allergens completely, we recommend limiting your exposure as much as possible. Additionally, replacing the carpet in your home with hardwood, tile, or linoleum helps to keep pet dander and pollen from settling in your home.

  • Ragweed
  • Mold Spores
  • Pet Dander

Don’t let eye allergies stop you from living your life. We can help you manage your eye allergies and control your symptoms. Give our office a call or request an appointment to discuss your allergies with your eye doctor!

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.

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.

Types of Diabetic Eye Disease

More than 28% of diabetics age 40 or older have a diabetic eye disease. These numbers are only expected to grow in the upcoming years due to the decrease in physical activity and healthy eating.

Types of Diabetes

Type 1

A chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. About 1.25 million Americans have type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes was previously known as juvenile diabetes. However, anyone at any age can get type 1 diabetes.

Type 2

90% of Americans with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. This occurs when your body is not using insulin correctly, called insulin resistance. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include obesity, an unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity.

Complications of Diabetes

Not managing or treating your diabetes can cause serious health complications including hypoglycemia, skin infections, neuropathy, kidney disease, foot complications, and eye complications. Additionally, people with diabetes are at a higher risk for blindness and eye problems. The good news is with the correct treatment and lifestyle changes many people can prevent the onset of these complications. Therefore, we recommend regular eye exams to avoid eye problems and vision loss.

Diabetic Eye Disease

  • Diabetic Retinopathy: Damages the blood vessels in the retina in the back of the eye. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is more likely to result in diabetic retinopathy. Consequently between 12,000 and 24,000 new cases of blindness due to diabetic retinopathy occur each year in the U.S. according to the CDC.
  • Clinically significant macular edema: Swelling of the macula in the back of the eye. Macular edema is most common in those with type 2 diabetes.
  • Cataract: Clouding in the lens of your eyes. Cataracts are two-five times more likely in people with diabetes.
  • Glaucoma: Optic nerve damage to the fibers that connect the eye to the brain. Diabetes doubles the risk of glaucoma.

Those with diabetes should get a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year to ensure their eyes are healthy. Call our office today to schedule your comprehensive 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

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.

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.

Bad Habits: Aging Your Eyes

Do you feel like your eyes have aged? Some bad habits can make your eyes appear more aged than they are. The best way to preserve your eye health and appearance is to cut these bad habits out of your life!bits out of your life!

Rubbing Your Eyes

There are tiny blood vessels under their skin around your eyes, excessive rubbing can cause these vessels to break. As a result, you may notice dark circles, puffy eyes, premature crows feet, and drooping eyelids. We recommend you refrain from pulling or tugging this skin because it is very sensitive. If your eyes are irritated, place a damp cloth on them instead of rubbing.

Not Wearing Sunglasses

Protecting your eyes from the harmful UV rays of the sun helps your eyes to stay healthy and young. If you don’t wear sunglasses, you could damage the eyes or sunburn the eyelids. Additionally, you increase your risk for eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration, pinguecula, and pterygium. To keep your eyes healthy, youthful, and safe wear sunglasses that block 100% of UV rays.

Smoking

Smoking is linked to eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration, uveitis, dry eye, and diabetic retinopathy. This is a bad habit that drastically ages your eyes. Smokers are four times more likely to go blind than nonsmokers. Quitting smoking, no matter what your age, reduces your risk of developing severe eye conditions.

Not Sleeping Enough

Your eyes can appear aged if you don’t get enough sleep. Consequently, a lack of sleep can cause red bloodshot eyes, dark circles under the eyes, eye twitching, dry eyes, and blurry vision. Not sleeping is a bad habit for your overall health and wellbeing.

Dehydration

Not drinking water can make you dehydrated. When you are dehydrated your eyes do not produce enough tears. As a result, you may experience symptoms of dry eye.

Not Visiting Your Eye Doctor

The last bad habit you need to change is not visiting your eye doctor. Many eye diseases can go undetected and cause harm before you are even aware of changes in your vision. Some eye diseases have no warning signs and can cause irreversible vision loss. Regular visits to your eye doctor are the best way to protect the health of your eyes, detect vision problems, and find possible eye disease. Don’t forget to inform us of any family history that can help to protect the health of your eyes.

Eliminating these bad habits from your life can help to improve eye health and maintain a youthful appearance. Give us a call today to schedule your regular eye exam.

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

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