Itching, burning, watering, red, irritated, tired eyes... what is a person to do? The symptoms aforementioned are classic sign of Dry Eye Syndrome (DES), which affects millions of adults and children. With increased screen time in all age groups, the symptoms are rising.

What causes this? One reason is that when we stare at a computer screen or phone, our blink reflex slows way down. A normal eye blinks 17,000 times per day. When our eye functions normally, the body usually produces enough tears to be symptom free, however, if you live in a geographical area that is dry, or has a high allergy rate, your symptoms could be worse.

Dry eye syndrome can be brought on by many factors: aging, geographical location, lid hygiene, contact lens wear, medications, and dehydration. The lacrimal gland in the eye that produces tears, in a person over forty years old, starts slowly losing function. Females with hormonal changes have a higher incidence of DES (dry eye syndrome). Dry, arid climates or areas with high allergy causes lend to higher incidences of DES as well.

Blepharities, a condition of the eyelids, can cause a dandruff-like situation for the eye, exacerbating a dry eye condition. Contact lenses can add to DES, so make sure you are in high oxygen contact lens material if you suffer from DES. Certain medications such as antihistamines, cholesterol and blood pressure meds, hormonal and birth control medications, can also cause symptoms of a dry eye. Check with your pharmacist if you are not sure.

And finally, overall dehydration can cause DES. Some studies show we need 1/2 our body weight in ounces of water per day. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, you need approximately 75 ounces of water per day to be fully hydrated. If you are not at that level, it could affect your eyes.

Treatment for DES is varied, but the main treatment is a tear supplement to replace the evaporated tears. These come in the form of topical ophthalmic artificial tears. Oral agents that can help are Omega 3 supplements such as fish oil or flax seed oil pills. They supplement the function of meibomian glands located at the lid margin. Ophthalmic gels used at night, as well as humidifiers, can help keep your eyes moisturized. Simply blinking hard more often can cause the lacrimal gland to produce more tears automatically.

For stubborn dry eyes, retaining tears on the eye can be aided by punctal plugs. They act like a stopper for a sink, and they are painless and can be inserted by your eye care practitioner in the office. Moisture chamber goggles can also be used in severe cases to hydrate the eyes with their body’s own natural humidity. This may sound far out but it gets the job done.

Being aware of the symptoms and treatments for dry eye syndrome can prevent frustration and allow your eyes to work more smoothly and efficiently in your daily routine. If your eyes feel dry as the Sahara or they water too much, know that help is on the way through proven techniques and products. You do not need to suffer needlessly in the case of Dry Eye Syndrome anymore. Make an appointment to talk with your eye doctor about the best treatments for you!

 

This blog provides general information and discussion about eye health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician. The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ.

There have been studies undertaken over the past several years to try and understand if there are any of our day-to-day activities that either help or hurt the management of glaucoma.

Most of the studies demonstrated very little impact on the course of glaucoma. Here are some of the things researches have looked at.

Aerobic exercise: This means doing something at least four times per week for more than 20 minutes at a time that raises your pulse rate to a level that makes your heart work harder. Going from a sedentary lifestyle to active one with aerobic exercise resulted in a very slight decrease in baseline eye pressure.

Yoga: A study conducted at the Mount Sinai Health System (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0144505) showed a significant increase in eye pressure with any head-down positioning. People with glaucoma would be wise to avoid any exercise that involves a position where your head is lower than your heart.

Weight lifting: Holding your breath while exerting yourself (called the Valsalva maneuver), is also a time when your eye pressure can go sky high. So if you lift weights for exercise, which is generally a good idea to maintain bone density, make it low weights with more repetitions of lifting, rather than heavy weights that make you grunt.

Wind instruments: A similar breath-holding problem applies to those playing the larger wind musical instruments like the French horn. One study suggested that there was a greater chance of glaucoma in symphonic wind players. If you play a brass instrument, it makes sense to have frequent checks of pressure, optic nerve head, and visual field.

Marijuana: Smoking marijuana can lower eye pressure. However, due to its short duration of action (3-4 hours), side effects, and lack of evidence that it alters the course of glaucoma, it is not recommended for glaucoma treatment.

Wearing tight neckties: This creates a very short-duration increase in eye pressure but doesn’t seem to have any long-term effects.

Visual Field

The visual field test is designed to see how well you see outside of the center part of your vision (peripheral vision).

When we test your vision on the basic eye chart it is only testing how well you see right in the center and gives us no idea if you can see out away from the center. Your peripheral vision is very important because it gives you the ability to move around your environment without running into things.

There are several diseases that can severely impact your peripheral vision while leaving central vision unaffected. Some people can have perfectly normal 20/20 central visual acuity and have almost complete loss of their peripheral vision.

The main culprits that can have a big impact on your peripheral vision long before your central vision are glaucoma, some retinal diseases such as retinal detachments or retinitis pigmentosa, and some neurological problems like brain tumors, strokes, pseudotumor cerebri and multiple sclerosis.  

Most visual field tests are now done on an automated machine that flashes lights in your peripheral vision while you stare straight ahead. The lights continue to get dimmer until you can no longer detect that they are there. The machine is trying to find the dimmest light you can see at each point in your peripheral vision that it is testing for.

Many patients get anxious when they take this test because everyone wants to do well on it. That sometimes results in people not staring straight ahead but trying to look around to find the lights in an effort to do better.

That just makes the test come out worse. The machine also makes some noise as it changes location of the test light. Some people start pressing the buzzer whenever they hear a noise. They think there must be a light they missed but the machine, several times during the test, makes noise and then doesn’t put a light on to specifically see if you are trying to cheat by hitting the buzzer on the noise rather that seeing the light. Don’t do those things - you are only cheating yourself and making it more difficult to figure out your problem.

Ocular Coherence Tomography (OCT)

The OCT really took hold in eye doctors' offices at the beginning of this century. It was the first time we were able to see anatomy and pathology inside the eye on a microscopic level without the use of any radiation.

It has been a great addition to our examination techniques and allowed us to see many causes of vision loss at a level of detail we could never have before.

The two biggest uses for OCT in optical health are diagnosing diseases of the retina, particularly the area of central vision called the macula, and for diseases of the optic nerve, the most common of which is glaucoma.

For retinal disease it has been extremely helpful in macular problems such as macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the U.S., diabetic retinopathy, retinal vascular occlusions and retinal swelling from inflammation.

The OCT allows us to see the individual cellular levels of the retina and helps in diagnosing the exact level where the pathology is occurring. If you look into the eye at the retina and see some bleeding in the macula it is difficult to judge where that blood exists. Is it superficial in the retina and coming from the retinal circulation or is it deep in and coming from the choroidal circulation under the retina?

The difference between those two locations can have a significant impact on what disease is causing the problem and what the proper treatment is. The OCT is also very helpful in following the effect of treatment. If you are treating a bleeding or swelling problem in the retina, the OCT can track the degree of improvement with a level of detail that could never be matched by the human eye.

For glaucoma and other problems with the optic nerve, the OCT can very precisely measure the thickness of the nerve tissue as it passes through the optic nerve. The hallmark of glaucoma is progressive loss of nerve fibers in the optic nerve.  Being able to measure the nerve thickness down to the micron level is very helpful in both diagnosing and watching for progression of any optic nerve disease.

Fundus Photography

A picture is worth 1,000 words...

Fundus photography is just that, a regular picture of the inside of your eye. The pictures highlight the appearance of the macula and the optic nerve and record it for prosperity.

As eye doctors we make notes in the medical record of what we see when we look in the eye. The wording of anything that looks abnormal with the retina or optic nerve does vary somewhat from doctor to doctor. One of things we record is something called the cup to disk ratio (C:D) of the optic nerve. We express that ratio as a percentage. Normal is about 30% or .3. The range of normal is very wide and some “normal” eyes have a .1 cup and others can have a .7.

In glaucoma those percentages get larger over time as the person loses nerve tissue. So, if you were born with a .3 cup but in your 60’s you were found to have a .5 cup that would be a strong indicator that you might have glaucoma.  However, if you were born with a .5 cup and at 60 you still have a .5 cup then you don’t have glaucoma.  When you look at someone at 60 with a .5 cup it’s hard to be sure if this is normal for that person or did they progress from a .3 cup to a .5 cup.  If only I had a picture …  

Pictures of the back of the eye really do tell the story better than words. I can describe what the C:D looks like to me but a different doctor may describe it differently. Doctors are usually fairly consistent in their estimate of the C:D when it is the same doctor watching that C:D over time. When a different doctor estimates the C:D that consistency is just not there. My .4 C:D may be my partner’s .5. But you can’t argue with the picture.  

The same thing occurs with retinal bleeding. Rating the amount of bleeding as mild, moderate or severe is somewhat helpful but there is a broad range of “mild” or “moderate”. When comparing two pictures taken at two different points of time it is much easier to decide if something is really getting better or worse.

We also use fundus photography to keep an eye on small tumors that can develop in the eye called choroidal nevi. These are increased areas of pigmentation under the retina in an area called the choroid. Most eye doctors explain these pigmented spots a “freckles in the eye”.  Most choroidal nevi are small and fairly flat. They can, however, sometimes grow larger and rarely turn into a melanoma in the eye. Serial photographs are very helpful in watching the lesions for growth.

These three tests - visual field, OCT and fundus photography - make up the core of our testing. There are many other tests that can be performed along with your eye exam but these three we described here probably make up about 80% of the tests you may encounter, depending on your individual problem.

Article contributed by Dr. Brian Wnorowski, M.D.

In light of the holiday season, here are our top 10 eye care jokes.

1) What do you call a blind deer? No Eye Deer!

2) What do you call a blind deer with no legs? Still No Eye Deer!

3) Why do eye doctors live long lives? Because they dilate!

4) Why did the blind man fall into the well? He couldn’t see that well.

5) Why shouldn’t you put avocados on your eyes? Because you might get guac-coma!

6) What did the right eye say to the left eye? "Between you and me, something smells."

7) A man goes to his eye doctor and tells the receptionist he’s seeing spots. The receptionist asks if he’s ever seen a doctor. The man replies, “No, just spots.”

8) How many eye doctors does it take to screw in a light bulb? One … or two

9) Unbeknownst to her, a woman was kicked out of peripheral vision club. She didn’t see that one coming!

10) What do you call a blind dinosaur? A do-you-think-he-saurus

Bonus: What do you call a blind dinosaur’s dog? A do-you-think-he-saurus rex!

Article contributed by Dr. Jonathan Gerard

Your Eyes Are A Precious Gift--Protect Them During The Holidays

“I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!”

“No, you'll shoot your eye out.”

This line from “A Christmas Story” is one of the most memorable Christmas movie quotes ever. Funny in the movie, but the holiday season does present a real eye injury threat.

For those who celebrate Christmas, that risk begins even before the actual day.

Some of the most frequent holiday-related eye injuries come from the Christmas tree itself.

Holiday eye safety begins with the acquisition of the tree. If you are cutting down your own tree, please wear eye protection when doing the cutting--especially if you are going to be using a mechanical saw such as a chain saw or sawzall. You need to also be careful of your eyes when loading a tree on top of the car. It is easy to get poked in the eye when heaving the tree up over your head.

Once back at home, take care to make sure no one else is standing close to the tree if you had it wrapped and now need to cut the netting off. The tree branches often spring out suddenly once the netting is released.

Other injuries occur in the mounting and decorating phase. Sharp needles, pointy lights, and glass ornaments all pose significant eye injury risk. If you are spraying anything like artificial tree snow on the branches be sure to keep those chemicals out of your eyes.

Having now successfully trimmed the tree without injury, let’s move our holiday eye safety talk to the toys.

We want to spend the holiday happily exchanging gifts in front of a warm fire, drinking some eggnog, and snacking on cookies--not going to the emergency room with an injury.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported there were 254,200 toy-related emergency room visits in 2015, with 45% of those being injuries to the head and face--including the eyes.

In general, here are the recommendations from the American Academy of Ophthalmology in choosing eye-safe toys for gifts:

  • “Avoid purchasing toys with sharp, protruding or projectile parts."
  • “Make sure children have appropriate supervision when playing with potentially hazardous toys or games that could cause an eye injury."
  • “Ensure that laser product labels include a statement that the device complies with 21 CFR (the Code of Federal Regulations) Subchapter J."
  • “Along with sports equipment, give children the appropriate protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses. Check with your eye doctor to learn about protective gear recommended for your child's sport."
  • “Check labels for age recommendations and be sure to select gifts that are appropriate for a child's age and maturity."
  • “Keep toys that are made for older children away from younger children."
  • “If your child experiences an eye injury from a toy, seek immediate medical attention.”

More specifically, there is a yearly list of the most dangerous toys of the season put out by the people at W.A.T.C.H. (world against toys causing harm).

Here are their 10 worst toy nominees for 2018, with four on the list that are specifically there for potential eye injury risk.

Here are other toys to avoid:

  • Guns that shoot ANY type of projectile. This includes toy guns that shoot lightweight, cushy darts.
  • Water balloon launchers and water guns. Water balloons fired from a launcher can easily hit the eye with enough force to cause a serious eye injury. Water guns that generate a forceful stream of water can also cause significant injury, especially when shot from close range.
  • Aerosol string. If it hits the eye it can cause chemical conjunctivitis, a painful irritation of the eye.
  • Toy fishing poles. It is easy to poke the eyes of nearby children.
  • Laser pointers and bright flashlights. The laser or other bright lights, if shined in the eyes for a long enough time, can cause permanent retinal damage.

There are plenty of great toys and games out there that pose much lower risk of injury so choose wisely, practice good Christmas eye safety, and have a great holiday season!

 

Article contributed by Dr. Brian Wnorowski, M.D.

This blog provides general information and discussion about eye health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician. The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ.

Christmas is one of the most joyful times of the year... thoughts of cookies, decorations, family gatherings, and toys abound. Birthday parties for kids add to the list of wonderful memories as well. But there are a few toys that may not make memories so fun because of their potential for ocular harm. The American Optometric Association lists dangerous toys each year to warn buyers of the potential harm to children’s eyes that could occur because of the particular design of that toy.

Here is a sample of that toy list:

  • Laser toys and laser pointers, or laser sights on toy guns pose serious threat to the retina, which may result in thermal burns or holes in the retina that can leave permanent injury or blindness. The FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health issues warnings on these devices at Christmas peak buying times.
  • Any type of toy or teenage gun that shoots a projectile object. Even if the ammo is soft pellets, or soft tipped it can still pose a threat. Even soft tipped darts are included in this harmful toy list. A direct hit to the eye can be debilitating.
  • Any toy that shoots a stream of water at high velocity can cause damage to the front and or back of the eye. The pressure itself, even though its just water, can damage small cells on the front and back of the eye.
  • Any toy that shoots string out of an aerosol can can cause a chemical abrasion to the front of the eye, just as bad as getting a chemical sprayed into the eye.
  • Toy fishing poles or toys with pointed edges or ends like swords, sabers or toy wands. Most injuries occur in children under 5 without adult supervision and horseplay can end up in a devastating eye injury from puncture.

The point is, that there are so many great toys to buy for children that can sidestep potential visual harm, that it behooves one to be aware of pitfalls of certain dangerous toy designs.

A great resource of information comes from World Against Toys Causing Harm.

For more information and for this year's list of hazardous toys, visit the W.A.T.C.H. website.

 

The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ.

If you were to do a Google news search for sports-related eye injuries today, chances are you'd find multiple recent stories about some pretty scary eye injuries.  Whether they are professionals, high school or college athletes, or kids in community sports programs, no one is immune to the increased danger sports brings to the eyes.

Here are some facts about sports-related eye injuries:

  1. Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children in the United States and most injuries occurring in school-aged children are sports-related.
  2. One-third of the victims of sports-related eye injuries are children.
  3. Every 13 minutes, an emergency room in the United States treats a sports-related eye injury.
  4. These injuries account for an estimated 100,000 physician visits per year at a cost of more than $175 million.
  5. Ninety percent of sports-related eye injuries could be avoided with the use of protective eyewear.

Protective eyewear includes safety glasses and goggles, safety shields, and eye guards designed for individual sports.

Protective eyewear lenses are made of polycarbonate or Trivex.

Ordinary prescription glasses, contact lenses, and sunglasses do not protect against eye injuries. Safety goggles should be worn over them.

The highest risk sports are:

  • Paintball
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Racquet Sports
  • Boxing and Martial Arts

The most common injuries associated with sports are:

  1. Abrasions and contusions
  2. Detached retinas
  3. Corneal lacerations and abrasions
  4. Cataracts
  5. Hemorrhages
  6. Eye loss

Protect your vision--or that of your young sports star. Make an appointment with your eye doctor today!

Article contributed by Dr. Brian Wnorowski, M.D.

The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ

What does blood in the back of the eye signify, anyway?

It could be a retinal vein occlusion, an ocular disorder that can occur in older people where the blood vessels to the retina are blocked.

The retina is the back part of the eye where light focuses and transmits images to the brain. Blockage of the veins in the retina can cause sudden vision loss. The severity of vision loss depends on where the blockage is located.

Blockage at smaller branches in the retinal vein is referred to as branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO).  Vision loss in BRVO is usually less severe, and sometimes just parts of the vision is blurry.  Blockage at the main retinal vein of the eye is referred to as central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO) and results in more serious vision loss. 

Sometimes blockage of the retinal veins can lead to abnormal new blood vessels developing on the surface of the iris (the colored part of your eye) or the retina. This is a late complication of retinal vein blockage and can occur months after blockage has occurred. These new vessels are harmful and can result in high eye pressure (glaucoma), and bleeding inside the eye.

What are the symptoms of a retinal vein occlusion?

Symptoms can range from painless sudden visual loss to no visual complaints. Sudden visual loss usually occurs in CRVO. In BRVO, vision loss is usually mild or the person can be asymptomatic. If new blood vessels develop on the iris, then the eye can become red and painful. If these new vessels grow on the retina, it can result in bleeding inside the eye, causing decreased vision and floaters – spots in your vision that appear to be floating.

Causes of retinal vein occlusion

Hardening of the blood vessels as you age is what predisposes people to retinal vein occlusion.  Retinal vein occlusion is more common in people over the age of 65. People with diabetes, high blood pressure, blood-clotting disorders, and glaucoma are also at higher risk for a retinal vein occlusion.

How is retinal vein occlusion diagnosed?

A dilated eye exam will reveal blood in the retina. A fluorescein angiogram is a diagnostic photographic test in which a colored dye is injected into your arm and a series of photographs are taken of the eye to determine if there is fluid leakage or abnormal blood vessel growth associated with the vein occlusion. An ultrasound or optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a photo taken of the retina to detect any fluid in the retina. 

Treatment for retinal vein occlusion

Not all cases of retinal vein occlusion need to be treated. Mild cases can be observed over time. If there is blurry vision due to fluid in the retina, then your ophthalmologist may treat your eye with a laser or eye injections. If new abnormal blood vessels develop, laser treatment is performed to cause regression of these vessels and prevent bleeding inside the eye. If there is already a significant amount of blood inside the eye, then surgery may be needed to remove the blood.

Outlook after retinal vein occlusion

Prognosis depends on the severity of the vein occlusion. Usually BRVO has less vision loss compared to CRVO. The initial presenting vision is usually a good indicator of future vision. Once diagnosed with a retinal vein occlusion, it is important to keep follow-up appointments to ensure that prompt treatment can be administered to best optimize your visual potential.

 

 Article contributed by Dr. Jane Pan

This blog provides general information and discussion about eye health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician. The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ.

And old Creek Indian proverb states, "We warm our hands by the fires we did not build, we drink the water from the wells we did not dig, we eat the fruit of the trees we did not plant, and we stand on the shoulders of giants who have gone before us."

In 1961, the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) was formed. This association stewards over 80 eye banks in the US with over 60,000 recipients each year of corneal tissue that restores sight to blind people. Over one million men, women, and children have had vision restored and pain relieved from eye injury or disease. The Eye Bank Association of America is truly a giant whom shoulders that we stand upon today. Their service and foresight into helping patients with blindness is remarkable.

It is important to give back the gift of sight. You may be asking, “how does this affect me?” On the back of your drivers license form there is a box that can be checked for being an organ donor. Many people forego this option because they are not educated on the benefits of it. There are many eye diseases that rob people of sight because of an opacity, pain, or disease process of the cornea. Keratoconus, a disease that causes malformation of the curvature of the cornea, can be treated by a corneal transplant. Chemical burns that cause scarring on the cornea leave people blinded or partially blind. This is another condition that requires a corneal transplant. 

When it comes to corneal tissue, virtually everyone is a universal donor, because the cornea is not dependent on blood type. Corneal transplant surgery has a 95% success rate. According to a recent study by EBAA, eye disorders are the 5th costliest to the US economy behind heart disease, cancer, emotional disorders, and pulmonary disease. The cost is incurred when the person, for example, is a working age adult and can no longer hold a job because of vision issues. The gift of a corneal transplant can be one way to restore not only their vision, but their way of life, and their contribution to society.

By becoming a donor, or educating others to consider being an organ donor, you can give the gift of sight to someone on a waiting list. When you educate others to give the precious gift of sight, you become a giant whose shoulders others can stand on. Become a donor today.

For more information go to www.restoresight.org or contact your local drivers license office.

 

The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ.

The word “astigmatism” is used so much in the optometric world that most people have talked about it when discussing their eye health with their doctor.

“Astigmatism” comes from the Greek “a” - meaning “without” - and “stigma” - meaning “a point.” In technical ocular terms, astigmatism means that instead of there being one point of focus in the eye, there are two. In other words, light merges not on to a singular point, but on two different points.

This is experienced in the real world by blurred, hazy vision, and can sometimes lead to eye strain or headaches if not corrected with either glasses or contact lenses.

Astigmatism is not a disease. In fact, more than 90% of people have some degree of astigmatism.

Astigmatism occurs when the cornea, the clear front surface of the eye like a watch crystal, is not perfectly round. The real-world example we often use to explain astigmatism is the difference between a basketball and a football.

If you cut a basketball in half you get a nice round half of a sphere. That is the shape of a cornea without astigmatism.

If you cut a football in half lengthwise you are left with a curved surface that is not perfectly round. It has a steeper curvature on one side and a flatter curve on the other side. This is an exaggerated example of what a cornea with astigmatism looks like.

The degree of astigmatism and the angle at which it occurs is very different from one person to the next. Therefore, two eyeglass prescriptions are rarely the same because there are an infinite number of shapes the eye can take.

Most astigmatism is “regular astigmatism,” where the two different curvatures to the eye lie 90 degrees apart from one another. Some eye diseases or surgeries of the eye can induce “irregular astigmatism,” where the curvatures are in several different places on the eye’s surface, and often the curvatures are vastly different, leading to a high amount of astigmatism.

Regular astigmatism is treated with glasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery (PRK or LASIK). Irregular astigmatism, such as that caused by the eye disease keratoconus, usually cannot be treated with these conventional methods. In these circumstances, special contact lenses are needed to treat the condition.

The next time you hear that either you or a loved one has astigmatism, fear not.

It is easily corrected, and although astigmatism can cause your vision to be blurry, it rarely causes any permanent damage to the health of your eyes.

If you experience blurred vision, headaches, or eye strain, having a complete eye exam may lead to a diagnosis and treatment of this easily-dealt-with condition.

 

Article contributed by Dr. Jonathan Gerard

This blog provides general information and discussion about eye health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician. The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ.

Knowing the difference between the various specialties in the eye care industry can be confusing, especially given the fact that they all start with the same letter and in many ways sound alike.

So, here’s a breakdown of the different monikers to make life a little less confusing for those wanting to get an eye exam.

Ophthalmologists

Ophthalmologists (pronounced “OFF-thal-mologists”) are eye doctors who went to four years of undergraduate university, four years of medical school and four to five years of ophthalmic residency training in the medical and surgical treatment of eye disease.

Many ophthalmologists then go on to pursue sub-specialty fellowships that can be an additional one to three years of education in areas such as cataract and refractive surgery, cornea and external disease, retina, oculoplastic surgery, pediatrics, and neuro-ophthalmology.

Ophthalmologists are licensed to perform eye surgery, treat eye diseases with eye drops or oral medications, and prescribe glasses and contact lenses.

Optometrists

Optometrists are eye doctors who went to undergraduate university for four years, then went on to optometry school for four years.

Many optometrists choose to pursue an additional year of residency after optometry school, though this is not a requirement for licensure. Optometrists are licensed in the medical treatment and management of eye disease, and prescribing glasses and contact lenses.

In some states, optometrists can perform certain minimally invasive laser surgical procedures, but on the whole, optometrists do not perform eye surgery. In addition, optometrists usually have different sub-specialties than ophthalmology, including vision therapy, specialty contact lenses, and low vision.

The analogy I use most often in comparing optometrists to ophthalmologists is that of a dentist and oral surgeon. Many people choose to have optometrists as their primary eye care provider doctor for medical treatment of eye disease, but when surgery is needed, they are referred to the proper ophthalmologist.

Opticians

Opticians specialize in the fitting, adjustment, and measuring of eye glasses. Some states require that opticians are licensed, and others do not.

If you have any questions about which professional is the right fit for your needs, check with your eye-care professional’s office and they’ll be happy to answer them for you.

 

Article contributed by Dr. Jonathan Gerard

This blog provides general information and discussion about eye health and related subjects. The words and other content provided on this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician. The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ.

Not everyone understands the importance of sunglasses when the weather turns cold.

Polarized sunglasses are usually associated with Summer, but in some ways it is even more important to wear protective glasses during the Winter.

It’s getting to be that time of year when the sun sits at a much different angle, and its rays impact our eyes and skin at a lower position. This translates to an increase in the exposure of harmful UV rays, especially if we are not wearing the proper sunglasses as protection.

Polarized sunglasses, which are much different than the older dye-tinted lenses, are both anti-reflective and UV resistant. A good-quality polarized sunglass lens will protect you from the entire UV spectrum. This not only preserves your vision, but it also protects the skin around the eyes, which is thought to have a much higher rate of susceptibility to skin cancer.

Snow poses another issue that can be countered by polarized sunglasses.

Snow on the ground tends to act as a mirror because of its white reflective surface and this reflection can become a hindrance while driving. The anti-reflective surface of polarized sunglasses helps reduce the glare and gives drivers improved visibility.

Polarized sunglasses come in many different options based on a patient’s needs. Whether it’s single-vision distance lenses, bifocals, or progressive lenses, there is a polarized lens for every patient.

Winter is a great time of year to ask your optical department about purchasing polarized sunglasses.

 

Article contributed by Richard Striffolino Jr.

The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that can affect the retina of people who have diabetes.

The retina is the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye, and it detects light that is then processed as an image by the brain. Chronically high blood sugar or large fluctuations in blood sugar can damage the blood vessels in the retina. This can result in bleeding in the retina or leakage of fluid.

Diabetic retinopathy can be divided into non-proliferative or proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy: In the early stage of the disease, there is weakening of the blood vessels in the retina that causes out-pouching called microaneurysms. These microaneurysms can leak fluid into the retina. There can also be yellow deposits called hard exudates present in the retina from leaky vessels.

Diabetic macula edema is when the fluid leaks into the region of the retina called the macula. The macula is important for sharp, central vision needed for reading and driving. The accumulation of fluid in the macula causes blurry vision.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy: As diabetic retinopathy progresses, new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. These blood vessels are fragile, which makes them likely to bleed into the vitreous, which is the clear gel that fills the middle of the eye. Bleeding inside the eye is seen as floaters or spots. Over time, scar tissue can then form on the surface of the retina and contract, leading to a retinal detachment. This is similar to wallpaper contracting and peeling away from the wall. If left untreated, retinal detachment can lead to loss of vision.

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy:

  • Asymptomatic: In the early stages of mild non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, the person will usually have no visual complaints. Therefore, it is important for people with diabetes to have a comprehensive dilated exam by their eye doctor once a year.
  • Floaters: This is usually from bleeding into the vitreous cavity from proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
  • Blurred vision: This can be the result of fluid leaking into the retina, causing diabetic macular edema.

Risk factors for diabetic retinopathy:

  • Blood sugar. Lower blood sugar will delay the onset and slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy. Chronically high blood sugar and the longer the duration of diabetes, the more likely chance of that person having diabetic retinopathy.
  • Medical conditions. People with high blood pressure and high cholesterol are at greater risk for developing diabetic retinopathy.
  • Ethnicity. Hispanics, African Americans and Native Americans are at greater risk for developing diabetic retinopathy.
  • Pregnancy. Women with diabetes could have an increased risk of developing diabetic retinopathy during pregnancy. If they already have diabetic retinopathy, it might worsen during pregnancy.

 

Article contributed by Jane Pan M.D.

The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ

There are certain eye conditions where an injection into your eye might be recommended.

Injections into the eye, specifically into the vitreous or gel-filled cavity of the eye, are called intravitreal injections.

In Part 1 of "You Want to Do WHAT to My Eye?" we talked mostly about anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) injections. Anti-VEGF injections are probably the most commonly injected agents and they are used to treat wet age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), diabetic retinopathy, and retinal vein occlusion.  

But there are other injections that may be used as treatment.

Another injected medication used in combination with Anti-VEGF agents to treat wet macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and retinal vein occlusion are steroids. Additionally, steroids can be used to treat inflammation, or uveitis, in the eye. There is a steroid implant called Ozurdex, that looks like a white pellet and can last up to 3 months in the eye. The downside of steroids is that they can increase eye pressure and cause progression of cataracts.  

Antibiotics are another type of medication that can be injected into the eye. Sometimes an infection called endophthalmitis can develop inside the eye. This can occur after eye surgery or a penetrating injury to the eye. The presenting signs and symptoms of endophthalmitis are loss of vision, eye pain and redness of the eye. Bacteria is usually the cause of the infection, and antibiotics are the treatment. The best way to deliver the antibiotics is to inject them directly into the eye.  

Another relatively new injection is Jetrea, an enzyme that breaks down the vitreous adhesions that may develop on the surface of the retina. As we age, the vitreous contracts away from the retinal surface.  When this occurs over the macula, the region responsible for fine vision, the result is visual distortion. Jetrea is an injection that will dissolve the vitreous adhesions and relieve the traction on the retina.  Prior to the advent of Jetrea, the only treatment would have been surgery to physically remove the vitreous jelly and traction on the retina.   

The next time you visit your eye doctor and are told you need an injection of medication, it will likely be one of the above agents.

Article contributed by Dr. Jane Pan

There are some eye conditions where your doctor might recommend an eye injection as a treatment option.

Injections into the eye, specifically into the vitreous or gel-filled cavity of the eye, are called intravitreal injections.

Anti-vascular endothelial growth factors (anti-VEGF) are probably the most commonly injected agents. They are used to treat wet age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), diabetic retinopathy, and retinal vein occlusion.

In these conditions, there are abnormal leaky blood vessels that cause fluid and blood to accumulate in and under the retina. This accumulation of fluid results in loss of central vision. The role of anti-VEGF agents is to shrink these abnormal vessels and restore the normal architecture of the retina.

There are three anti-VEGF agents widely administered: Lucentis, Avastin, and Eylea.

Lucentis (Ranibizumab) is FDA approved for treatment of wet ARMD, diabetic retinopathy, and vein occlusion. It is specially designed for injection into the eye and is a smaller molecule than Avastin so it may have better penetration into the retina.

Avastin (Bevacizumab) was originally approved by FDA for treating colorectal cancer. It is used “off-label” for the same treatment indications as Lucentis. Off-label usage of medication is legal, but pharmaceutical companies can't promote a medication for off-label use. The amount of Avastin needed for eye injections is a fraction of the amount used to treat colorectal cancer, therefore, the cost of ophthalmic Avastin is only a fraction of the cost of Lucentis. This means that Avastin needs to be prepared sterilely into smaller doses by an outside pharmacy prior to injection into the eye.  

Eylea (Aflibercept) is the third anti-VEGF agent. It was designed to have more binding sites than Avastin and Lucentis so it may last longer in the eye than the former two.  Eylea is FDA approved for treatment of wet ARMD, diabetic disease, and vein occlusion, and therefore, the cost of Eylea is similar to the cost of Lucentis.

Various studies have been performed to compare these agents. The most anticipated study was the CATT trial (N Engl J Med 2011; 364:1897-1908), which compared Avastin and Lucentis for the treatment of wet ARMD.

The study found that both had equivalent treatment effects on vision over the course of a year. In general, most ophthalmologists would consider all three agents to be very similar.

There is a thought that after prolonged injections, some patients may develop resistance to one particular agent but still respond to the other 2 agents. Therefore, your ophthalmologist will individualize your treatment.

Article contributed by Dr. Jane Pan

Fall brings a lot of fun, with Halloween bringing loads of it.

But did you know that some Halloween practices could harm your vision? Take Halloween contacts, for instance. They vary widely, with everything from monster eyes to goblin eyes to cat eyes to sci-fi or a glamour look. They can be just the added touch you need for that perfect costume. However, some people do not realize that the FDA classifies contact lenses as a medical device that can alter cells of the eye and that damage can occur if they are not fit properly.

Infection, redness, corneal ulcers, hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the eye) and permanent blindness can occur if the proper fit is not ensured. The ICE, FTC, and FDA are concerned about costume contacts from the illegal black market because they are often unsafe and unsanitary. Proper safety regulations are strictly adhered to by conventional contact lens companies to ensure that the contact lenses are sterile and packaged properly and accurately.

Health concerns arise whenever unregulated black-market contacts come into the US market and are sold at flea markets, thrift shops, beauty shops, malls, and convenience stores. These contacts are sold without a prescriber's prescription, and are illegal in the US. There have also been reports of damage to eyes because Halloween spook houses ask employees to share the same pair of Halloween contact lenses as they dress up for their roles.

So the take home message is, have a great time at Halloween, and enjoy the flare that decorative contacts can bring to your costume, but get them from a reputable venue and be fit by an eye care professional with a proper legal prescription. Don't gamble with your eyes for a night of Halloween fun!

 

The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ

We all know that during pregnancy, a woman's body goes through a great deal of change hormonally and physiologically.  But did you know her eyes change as well?  Below are some of the most common effects pregnancy can have on the eye.

  • Corneal changes. In some cases, pregnancy can cause the cornea, the front window of the eye, to change curvature and even swell, leading to shifts in glasses and contact lens prescriptions. In addition, changes in the chemistry of the tear film can lead to dry eyes and contact lens intolerance. It is for these reasons that it is generally not recommended to have any new contact lens fitting or new glasses prescription checks until several months postpartum. We want to get the most accurate measurements possible.
  • Retinal changes.  Many different conditions can affect the retina during pregnancy. If the pregnant woman has diabetes, diabetic eye disease can progress by 50%. In women with preeclampsia, a condition where blood pressure rises significantly, over 40% of women can show changes in the retinal blood vessels, and 25% to 50% complain of changes to their vision.
  • Eye Pressure Fluctuation.  Intraocular pressure (IOP) usually decreases during pregnancy. The exact mechanism causing this is unknown, but it is usually attributed to an increase of flow of intraocular fluid out of the eye. This is good news for pregnant women with glaucoma or high IOP. In fact, the drop in IOP is larger when you start with a high IOP compared to one in the normal range.

There are many more effects that pregnancy can have on the eye, but these are the most common. One other thing to keep in mind is that though the likelihood of any adverse effect is extremely low, we try not to use any diagnostic eye drops on pregnant patients during the eye exam. Unless there is a medical necessity to dilate the pupils or check IOP, it is a good rule of thumb to put off using drops until after the patient has given birth in order to protect the developing baby.  

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has recommendations for how often adults need to get their eyes examined and those recommendations vary according to the level of risk you have for eye disease.

For people who are not at elevated risk the recommendations are:

  • Baseline eye exam at age 40.
  • Ages 40-54 every 2-4 years.
  • Ages 55-64 every 1-3 years.
  • Ages 65 and older every 1-2 years.

Those recommendations are just for people who have NO added risk factors. If you are diabetic or have a family history of certain eye diseases then you need exams more frequently.  

As you can see, the guidelines recommend more frequent exams as you get older. Here are the TOP 4 REASONS why you need your eyes examined more frequently as you get older:

1. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States. It has no noticeable symptoms when it begins and the only way to detect glaucoma is through a thorough eye exam. Glaucoma gets more and more common as you get older. Your risk of glaucoma is less then 1% if you are under 50 and over 10% if you are 80 or over. The rates are higher for African Americans. Glaucoma can be treated but not cured.  The earlier it is detected and treated, the better your chances for keeping your vision.

2. Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. Like glaucoma, it gets more common as you age. It affects less than 2% of people under 70, rises to 10% in your 80s and can get as high as 50% in people in their 90s. The rates are highest in Caucasians. Macular degeneration can also be treated but not cured. Early intervention leads to better outcomes.

3. Cataracts

As in the cases above, cataracts get more common as you get older.  If they live long enough, almost everyone will develop some degree of cataracts. In most people, cataracts develop slowly over many years and people may not recognize that their vision has changed. If your vision is slowly declining from cataracts and you are not aware of that change it can lead to you having more difficulty in performing life’s tasks. We get especially concerned about driving since statistics show that you are much more likely to get in a serious car accident if your vision is reduced. There is also evidence that people with reduced vision from cataracts have a higher rate of hip fractures from falls.

4. Dry Eyes

Dry eyes can affect anyone at any age but the incidence tends to be at its highest in post-menopausal women. Dry eyes can present with some fairly annoying symptoms (foreign body sensation in the eye, burning, intermittent blurriness). Sometimes there aren’t any symptoms but during an exam we can see the surface of the cornea drying out.  Dry eye can lead to significant corneal problems and visual loss if it gets severe and is left untreated.

One of the most heart-breaking things we see in the office is the 75-year-old new patient who hasn’t had an eye exam in 10 years and he comes in because his vision “just isn’t right” and his family has noticed he sometimes bumps into things. On exam his eye pressures are through the roof and he is nearly blind from undetected glaucoma. And at that point there is no getting back the vision he has lost. If he had only come in several years earlier and just followed the guidelines, all this could have been prevented. Now he is going to have to live out the rest of his years struggling with severe vision loss.

DON’T LET THAT BE YOU!!!!!!

Article contributed by Dr. Brian Wnorowski, M.D.

"What are these weird floating things I started seeing?"

The spots, strings, or cobwebs that drift in and out of your vision are called “floaters,” and they are more prominent if you’re looking against a white background.

These floaters are tiny clumps of material floating inside the vitreous (jelly-like substance) that fills the inside of your eye. Floaters cast a shadow on the retina, which is the inner lining of the back of the eye that relays images to the brain.

As you get older, the vitreous gel pulls away from the retina and the traction on the retina causes flashing lights. These flashes can then occur for months. Once the vitreous gel completely separates from the back wall of the eye, you then have a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), which is a common cause of new onset of floaters.

This condition is more common in people who:

  • Are nearsighted.
  • Are aphakic (absence of the lens of the eye).
  • Have past trauma to the eye.
  • Have had inflammation in the eye.

When a posterior vitreous detachment occurs, there is a concern that it can cause a retinal tear.

Symptoms of a retinal tear include:

  • Sudden increase in number of floaters that are persistent and don't resolve.
  • Increase in flashes.
  • A shadow covering your side vision, or a decrease in vision.

In general, posterior vitreous detachment is unlikely to progress to a retinal detachment. Only about 15 percent of people with PVD develop a retinal tear.

If left untreated, approximately 40 percent of people with a symptomatic retinal tear will progress into a retinal detachment – and a retinal detachment needs prompt treatment to prevent vision loss.

Generally, most people become accustomed to the floaters in their eyes.

Surgery can be performed to remove the vitreous gel but there is no guarantee that all the floaters will be removed. And for most people, the risk of surgery is greater than the nuisance that the floaters present.

Similarly, there is a laser procedure that breaks the floaters up into smaller pieces in hopes of making them less noticeable. However, this is not a recognized standard treatment and it is not widely practiced.

In general, the usual recommendation for floaters and PVD is observation by an eye care specialist.

 

Article contributed by Jane Pan M.D.

The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ. This blog provides general information and discussion about eye health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician.

One of the hardest questions eye care professionals deal with every day is when to tell people who are having difficulty with their vision that they need to stop driving.

Giving up your driving privilege is one of the most difficult realities to come to terms with if you have a problem that leads to permanent visual decline.

The legal requirements vary from state to state. For example, in New Jersey the legal requirement to drive, based on vision, is 20/50 vision or better with best correction in one eye for a “pleasure” driving license. For a commercial driving license, the requirement is 20/40 vision or better in both eyes.

In some states there is also a requirement for a certain degree of visual field (the ability to see off to the sides).

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the highest rate of motor vehicle deaths per mile driven is in the age group of 75 and older (yes, even higher than teenagers). Much of this increased rate could be attributable to declining vision. There are also other contributing factors such as slower reaction times and increased fragility but the fact remains that the rate is higher, so when vision problems begin to occur with aging it is extremely important to do what is necessary to try to keep your vision as good as possible.

That means regular eye exams, keeping your glasses prescription up-to-date, dealing with cataracts when appropriate, and staying on top of other vision-threatening conditions such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetes.

It is our responsibility to inform you when you are no longer passing the legal requirement to drive. Although there is no mandatory reporting law in all states, it is recorded in your medical record that you were informed that your vision did not pass the state requirements to maintain your privilege. And, yes, it is a privilege -- not a right -- to drive.

If you have a significant visual problem and your vision is beginning to decline, you need to have a frank discussion with your eye doctor about your driving capability. If you are beginning to get close to failing the requirement you need to start preparing with family and loved ones about how you are going to deal with not being able to drive.

Many of us eye doctors have had the unfortunate occurrence of having instructed a patient to stop driving because of failing vision, only to have him ignore that advice and get in an accident. Don’t be that person. Be prepared, have a plan.

 

Article contributed by Dr. Brian Wnorowski, M.D.

The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ. This blog provides general information and discussion about eye health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician.

Who is Charles Bonnet?  He was a Swiss naturalist, philosopher, and biologist (1720-1793) who first described the hallucinatory experiences of his 89-year-old grandfather, who was nearly blind in both eyes from cataracts.   Charles Bonnet Syndrome is now the term used to describe simple or complex hallucinations in people who have impaired vision.  

Symptoms

People who experience these hallucinations know they aren't real.  These hallucinations are only visual, and they don't involve any other senses. These images can be simple patterns or more complex, like faces or cartoons.  They are more common in people who have retinal conditions that impair their vision, like macular degeneration, but they can occur with any condition that damages the visual pathway.  The prevalence of Charles Bonnet Syndrome among adults 65 years and older with significant vision loss is reported to be between 10% and 40%.  This condition is probably under reported because people may be worried about being labeled as having a psychiatric condition. 

Causes

The causes of these hallucinations are controversial, but the most supported theory is deafferentation, which is the loss of signals from the eye to the brain; then, in turn, the visual areas of the brain discharge neural signals to create images to fill the void.  This is similar to the phantom limb syndrome, when a person feels pain where a limb was once present.  In general, the images that are produced by the brain are usually pleasant and non-threatening.

Treatment and prognosis

If there is a reversible cause of decreased vision, such as significant cataract, then once the decreased vision is treated, the hallucinations should stop.

There is no proven treatment for the hallucinations as a result of permanent vision loss but there are some techniques to manage the condition.  Give these a try if you have Charles Bonnet Syndrome.

  • Talking about the hallucinations and understanding that it is not due to mental illness can be reassuring.
  • Changing the environment or lighting conditions.  If you are in a dimly lit area, then switch on the light and vice versa. 
  • Blinking and moving your eyes to the left and right and looking around without moving your head have been reported as helpful.
  • Resting and relaxing.  The hallucinations may be worse if you are tired or sick.
  • Taking antidepressants and anticonvulsants have been used but have questionable efficacy. 

Over time, the hallucinations become more manageable and can decrease or even stop after a couple of years.

If you experience any of these symptoms, please get evaluated by your eye doctor to make sure there is not a treatable eye condition.  Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed—your issue is likely caused by a physical disturbance and we are here to help!

Article contributed by Jane Pan

The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ.

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It is the mission of Lifetime Vision & Contact Lens Center to contribute to a lifetime of healthy vision by providing each patient with the best possible care to enhance quality of life. We will seek continuing education to remain at the forefront of our profession and will offer the latest in eye care technology, professional services, and products. The visual needs and wellness of each patient will always be our first priority. We will accomplish this in an atmosphere of uncompromised service, value, and friendliness.