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.

Alzheimer's Disease International estimates that the number of people living with dementia worldwide - nearly 44 million in 2014 - will almost double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050.

There is no single test that can show if a person has Alzheimer's, but doctors can almost always determine if a person has dementia, although it may be difficult to determine the exact cause. Diagnosing Alzheimer's requires careful medical evaluation, neurological testing, and sometimes brain imaging and blood tests to rule out other causes of dementia.

Most of the testing for early disease - MRI scans of the brain, brain PET scans looking for amyloid, and spinal taps looking for certain proteins in the spinal fluid - are not very accurate, and they are invasive and often expensive.

Researchers have now turned to findings in the eye to help with early detection and are hoping to find ways to make the diagnosis earlier when potential treatments may have a better outcome. There is also hope that these tests will be less expensive and invasive then the other options.

One of the tests that has shown promise is an OCT of the retina. Almost every eye doctor’s office already has an OCT, and so if this research proves fruitful, the test could be done relatively cheaply because there is not a need to buy more expensive equipment. Right now, the average OCT exam is reimbursed at about the $50 per exam level, much less than the cost of an MRI or PET Scan.

Neuroscientists at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco showed a proof of concept in frontotemporal dementia, which is like Alzheimer’s but attacks much earlier and accounts for just 10% to 15% of dementia cases. They found that patients with frontotemporal dementia had thinning of the neuron layer of the retina on OCT.

In a study at Moorfields Eye Hospital they also found that people who had a thinner layer of neurons in the macula on an OCT exam were more likely to perform poorly on the cognitive tests - a clear warning sign they may be undergoing the early stages of dementia.

Study leader Dr. Fang Ko, said: “Our findings show a clear association between thinner macular retinal nerve fiber layer and poor cognition in the study population. This provides a possible new biomarker for studies of neurodegeneration.”

A second marker that is getting a careful look is identifying the presence of amyloid in the eye. Amyloid, thought to be one of the key causes of Alzheimer’s, which makes up most dementia cases, is often found to have formed into clumps and plaques in the brain. Scientists at Waterloo University in Canada found people with severe Alzheimer’s disease had deposits of a protein amyloid on their retinas.

Research conducted at Lifespan-Rhode Island Hospital in Providence co-led by Peter Snyder, a professor of neurology at Brown University, and Cláudia Santos, a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island, is attempting to detect amyloid in the retina by OCT and follows people over time to see if the amyloid increases and if it correlates with cognitive impairment.

Another angle being pursued by a company called Cognoptix is looking for amyloid in the lens of the eye. Using Cognoptix's SAPPHIRE II system, which detects amyloid in the lens, a 40-person Phase 2 clinical trial was conducted at four sites. The study recruited patients who were clinically diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s disease (AD) via a rigorous neuropsychological and imaging workup. The study, using age-matched healthy controls, showed outstanding results of 85% sensitivity, and 95% specificity in predicting which people had probable AD.

The company is now planning a Phase 3 study that must show a strong correlation in a bigger study group to obtain ultimate FDA approval.

One of the other items I was going to include in this post was information on what visual symptoms occur in dementia patients and how family and friends can support them but I found an outstanding review already available online by the Alzheimer’s society that covers all those points. If you have a loved one with dementia this is an excellent read and I highly recommend you take the time to review it.

 

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.

Eye drops can be hard for some patients to put into their eyes. After cataract surgery, there are two main issues we are trying to control: Preventing infection and controlling inflammation.  Traditionally, we prescribed antibiotic eye drops to prevent infection, as well as steroid eye drops to control post-operative inflammation. Now we have some alternatives to using eye drops after surgery.   

There are some antibiotic solutions we can place inside the eye at the end of the cataract surgery that have been shown in most studies to do as good or better a job preventing infection as using antibiotic eye drops before and after surgery.

Just recently, the FDA approved two new steroid delivery methods to reduce post-operative inflammation that have the potential to eliminate post-op steroid eye drops in most (but not all) patients who are undergoing cataract surgery. Those two products are called Dexycu and Dextenza.

Dexycu is a white bolus of steroid medication that is injected inside the eye after cataract surgery. It will not be visible in most patients because it is injected behind the iris, or the colored part of the eye.  It sometimes doesn’t stay behind the iris and you might see a small white dot in the eye initially after surgery.  It is a sustained-released medication, is resorbed over a couple of weeks and replaces the need for post-operative steroid drops.  

Dextenza is a white pellet that is inserted into the lower punctum of the lid, which is the small opening for the drainage of tears. This insert is designed to deliver medication for up to 30 days.  It is slowly resorbed and doesn't need to be removed. Similarly, it is usually not visible and does not cause any discomfort.

If you have either a Dexycu or Dextenza implant placed and an antibiotic medication is injected inside the eye after surgery, then you may be drop free after surgery. The main difference between the two steroid injections is that Dexycu is injected inside the eye while Dextenza is deposited outside the eye.  For each of these new options there is a chance that in your particular case there may still be too much inflammation and you might need to take eye drops for a while, but the majority of the time you would not need drops.

If you are going to have cataract surgery and would like to be drop free after the procedure, then ask your surgeon if you would be a candidate for either the Dexycu or Dextenza implant.

Article contributed by Dr. Jane Pan.

"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.

The majority of cataract surgeries performed in the U.S. are done with a local anesthetic and IV sedation.

The local anesthesia may be accomplished in one of two ways: either an injection of anesthetic around the eye or anesthetic eye drops placed on the eye, often combined with an injection of a small amount of anesthetic into the front of the eye at the very beginning of surgery.

The injection of anesthetic around the eye generally produces a deeper anesthesia for the surgery than the topical method but it also comes with increased risk. There is a very small chance of potentially serious bleeding behind the eye and a rare chance of inadvertent penetration of the back of the eye with the injection needle.

The topical anesthesia has lower risk but does not provide quite as deep of an anesthesia, although the overwhelming majority of people having cataract surgery with a topical anesthetic do not experience any significant pain during the procedure. 

The other difference between the two anesthesias is with that topical anesthesia you maintain your ability to move your eye around whereas with injection anesthesia the eye muscles are temporarily paralyzed so your eye doesn’t move during the surgery.  When you have topical anesthesia it is important for you to try to stare straight ahead at the light in the microscope above you. Most people accomplish this quite easily.

Along with the anesthetic to the eye, in most cataract surgeries an anesthetist will also give you some mild sedative medication through an IV. This relaxes you but does not put you “out,” although some people do fall asleep during the procedure from the effects of the sedation.

Many people who have cataract surgery with IV sedation don’t remember some of the surgery because of the amnesiac effect that occurs from the sedative. This often doesn’t happen when you return for surgery on your second eye. 

Despite often getting the exact same dose of sedative on the second surgery you have significant less amnesia the second time. This is caused by a quick buildup in tolerance to the medication. 

When they have their second surgery, many patients feel that the surgery was significantly different than the first time even though it was done exactly the same. The reason is just that you remember more the second time.

On rare occasions people need to have general anesthesia to have their cataracts removed. Today, that is mostly done for people who are incapable of cooperating and staying still for the surgery. For everyone who can cooperate it is generally not worth the risks, which include death, to put people to sleep for a surgery that is easily done under a local anesthetic.

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 Is Intraoperative Aberrometry?

Yes, that is a mouthful, but the concept isn’t quite as hard as the name.

An Intraoperative Aberrometer is an instrument we can use in the operating room to help us determine the correct power of the implant we put in your eye during cataract surgery.

Cataract surgery is the removal of the cloudy natural lens of your eye and the insertion of a new artificial lens inside your eye called an intraocular lens (IOL).

The cloudy cataract that we are removing has focusing power (think of a lens in a camera) and when that lens is removed, we need to insert an artificial lens in its place to replace that focusing power. The amount of focusing power the new IOL needs has to match the shape and curvature of your eye.

To determine what power of lens we select to put in your eye, we need to measure the shape and curvature of your eye prior to surgery.  Once we get those measurements, we can plug those numbers into several different formulas to try and get the most accurate prediction of what power lens you need.

Overall, those measurements and formulas are very good at accurately predicting what power lens you should have. There are, however, several eye types where those measurements and formulas are less accurate at predicting the proper power of the replacement lens.

Long Eyes: People who are very nearsighted usually have eyes that are much longer than average.  This adds some difficulty with the accuracy of both the measurements and the formulas. There are special formulas for long eyes but even those are less accurate than formulas for normal length eyes.

Short Eyes: People who are significantly farsighted tend to have shorter-than-normal eyes.  Basically, the same issues hold true for them as the ones for longer eyes noted above.

Eyes with previous refractive surgery (LASIK, PRK, RK): These surgeries all change the normal shape of the cornea.  This makes the formulas we use on eyes that have not had previous surgery not work as well when the normal shape of the cornea has been altered.

This is where intraoperative aberrometry comes in. The machine takes the measurements that we do before surgery and then remeasures the eye while you are on the operating room table after the cataract is removed and before the new implant is placed inside the eye. It then presents the surgeon with the power of the implant that the aberrometer thinks is the correct one.  Unfortunately, the power that the aberrometer isn’t always exactly right, but with the combination of the pre-surgery measurements and the intra-surgery measurements the overall accuracy is significantly enhanced.

The intraoperative aberrometry is also very helpful in choosing the power of specialty lenses like multi-focal and toric lenses.

We would encourage you to consider adding intraoperative aberrometry to your cataract surgery procedure if you have either a long or short eye (usually manifested as a high prescription in your glasses) or if you have had any previous refractive surgery.

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

What do Amblyopia, Strabismus, and Convergence Insufficiency all have in common? These are all serious and relatively common eye conditions that children can have.

Did you know that 80% of learning comes through vision? The proverb that states ”A picture is worth a thousand words” is true!  If a child has a hard time seeing, it stand to reason that she will have a hard time learning.

Let’s explore Amblyopia, or “lazy eye”. It affects 3-5% of the population, enough that the federal government funded children’s yearly eye exams into the Accountable Care Act or ObamaCare health initiative. Amblyopia occurs when the anatomical structure of the eye is normal but the “brain-eye connection” is malfunctioning. In other words, it is like plugging your computer into the outlet but the power cord is faulty.

Amblyopia need to be caught early in life--in fact if it is not caught and treated early (before age 8) it can lead to permanent vision impairment. Correction with glasses or contacts and patching the good eye are ways it is treated. Most eye doctors agree that the first exam should take place in the first year of life. Early detection is a key.

Strabismus is a condition that causes an eye to turn in (esotropia), out (exotropia), or vertically. It can be treated with glasses or contacts, and surgery, if needed. Vision therapy or strategic eye exercises prescribed by a doctor can also improve this condition.

When we read, our brain tells our eyes to turn in to a comfortable reading posture. In Convergence Insufficiency, the brain tells the eyes to turn in, but they instead turn out, causing tremendous strain on that child’s eye for reading. Another tell tale sign of this condition is the inability to cross your eyes when a target approaches. The practitioner will see instead, that one of the eyes kicks out as the near target approaches. This condition can be treated with reading glasses or contacts, and eye exercises that teach the muscles of the eye to align properly during reading. Vision therapy is the treatment of choice for Convergence Insufficiency.

It is important to understand the pediatric eye and all the treatments that can be implemented to augment the learning process. Preventative care in the form of early eye examinations can mean the difference between learning normall or struggling badly. Remember, a young child can’t tell you if he hasa vision impairment. For the success of the child, be proactive by scheduling an early vision exam.

 

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.