As we head to the season of shorter days and longer nights, we have no option but to drive in dark conditions. Millions of Americans have problems driving at night. Although we may be able to see clearly at the doctor’s office or in our everyday lives, once the sun goes down and we hit the road, we can experience new problems. Glare, halos, and difficulty recognizing contrasts can make driving and traveling at an increased rate of speed difficult.
As we age, our pupils shrink and don’t maintain their elasticity as much as they used to. They have a tougher time opening and closing quickly to adapt to changes in light. Older people also have decreased rods in the retina which makes differentiating objects more difficult in low light conditions.
Cataracts can also be an issue as we age. They develop over time and cloud the lens of the eye making things glare at night. You can see halos around lights and can also experience blurred vision.
Retinal issues can also make driving at night more difficult. Diabetes and macular degeneration can create issues in the retina making vision blurry or creating blind spots. If you notice these at night, please let your doctor know.
Dry eye disease can cause difficulty driving at night. Having a poor quality tear film can make vision blurry and can cause problems with night vision. Dry eye disease tends to affect women over the age of 40 and create vision problems as well as issues with comfort.
If you frequently spend too much time in the sun during the day, it can take your eyes a while to adjust to the light at night. A big help will be to wear sunglasses when you are out during daylight so that the contrast is not as severe.
One way to combat the glare and excess distracting light is to wear eyewear with glare reducing coatings. There are many amber/yellow colored glasses out there marketed as night driving glasses, but there is no evidence that these work and they can actually make the glare problem worse.
Another important safety tip for driving at night is to make sure your headlights are not cloudy and functioning properly. A clean windshield and mirror, free of imperfections, are also important.
And of course, it’s a good idea to maintain regular, safe speeds. (That tip is for everyone.)
If it’s been longer than two years since your last comprehensive exam, we recommend having a dilated exam so that your eye doctor can examine your retina for issues that could affect your driving as well as your overall health. At the same time, your doctor can check for cataracts and any other issues that may make driving unsafe.
How Often Do You Really Need an Eye Exam?
We get this question quite often. The thing to remember is that an eye exam is more than just to check how well you can see clearly. Vision is important, but it’s only a part of your comprehensive eye exam at EyeCare Specialties.
During a comprehensive exam, we look at the entire structure of your eyes. There are many health issues such as diabetes that can actually be observed in structures of the eye sometimes before they can even be detected in the body. Other issues like glaucoma or macular degeneration might not be noticed in your vision right away but can be detected in a thorough exam so that your doctor can help monitor or even slow the condition before vision is impaired.
The American Optometric Association suggests that children get their first eye exam at 6 months (yes, we can check your baby’s eyes that early). They recommend another exam at three and then just before your children start kindergarten. After that, if your child doesn’t have any other vision concerns, they should have their eyes examined every two years. If they do have vision issues and have been prescribed glasses or contacts, they should have their eyes examined every year to make sure their prescription is working as best as possible. If your child complains about headaches or tends to rub their eyes or squint, it may be a good idea to make an appointment and have things adjusted.
For adults, the American Optometric Association recommends an exam every two years unless you wear glasses or contact lenses. In that case, they recommend coming in for a yearly exam to make sure that your prescription is best serving your needs as your vision can change. If you have a family history of eye disease such as glaucoma or macular degeneration, you should make a yearly appointment. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, you should also be seen annually to check for a change in your condition.
These are simply guidelines for how often you should make your regular eye exams. Talk to your optometrist about how often you should come in based on your current eye health and your family health history.
Halloween Safety: Costume Contacts
As Halloween approaches, a trend that has been really taking off over the past few years is the wearing of costume contact lenses. While the effect can be stunning, it is important to take safety into consideration when choosing contact lenses as part of your costume.
Contact lenses require a prescription, because they are classified as medical devices by the FDA. Since they come in direct contact with your body, it is important that the fit and quality of the lenses are correct for your unique eyes, or there can be extreme consequences.
There have been reports of eye scratches, eye fatigue and even blindness when costume contact lenses haven’t been prescribed or monitored by an eye care professional. Over-the-counter contacts can also be full of bacteria and can cause serious infections to your eyes as well. Your best bet is to purchase your contact lenses through your eye doctor.
Be safe this Halloween season and protect your eyes. We want to make sure you are able to enjoy many years of ghouls and goblins in the future.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Follow Up with Mindy
Mindy McCormick’s last treatment was just a few weeks ago. Mindy’s battle with breast cancer started in July of 2016. Over the past year and three months, she has undergone six aggressive chemo treatments, surgery, radiation, and has been on a chemo “maintenance” plan for the past few months. The end of every phase has been anxiously anticipated.
We shared Mindy’s story last October as part of Breast Cancer Awareness month. Mindy wanted to be able to tell her story and encourage women to be their own best health advocates. At that point she was almost through with the aggressive chemotherapy treatments. Exhausted and worn, she was grateful for the support she had from family and co-workers.
She was surprised at how difficult the side effects of chemotherapy would be. At the clinic, they had mentioned that everyone experiences it differently. She would undergo treatment and then feel a crash three or four days later with extreme body aches, weakness, and fatigue. She didn’t expect how quickly she would lose the strength in her legs. She found it difficult to even walk up a flight of stairs. With the effects of each treatment getting worse after each one, Mindy couldn’t wait to be done.
She had surgery in December and began radiation in January. This time, she was surprised at how well she was able to handle radiation and again was aware of how breast cancer affects each patient differently.
Through her journey, Mindy has been able to meet other women who have been or are going through the battle. In the waiting room on her first day of treatment, she met a woman who was their for her last day of treatment. On Mindy’s last day of treatment, she met another woman who was there for her first.
Mindy has been amazed by the positivity surrounding her experience. Her doctor never talked about negative outcomes. He only explained each step and how they were going to fight. The staff at Nebraska Hematology Oncology were welcoming and courteous; they remember every patient and keep the focus on the positive.
That positive attitude is what Mindy recommends to other women who have experienced a breast cancer diagnosis. Surrounding yourself with people who can help and support you is important. Mindy is grateful for her co-workers at EyeCare Specialties for their encouragement. They organized a meal train and brought hot meals for Mindy’s family every other day for a month so that her family could concentrate on helping her get better. The ECS staff turnout at the Making Strides Walk last year was inspiring to Mindy. Seeing the entire team break out the pink and support her during last year’s Pink Out fundraiser was also incredibly heartening.
Named after one of Mindy’s favorite bands, Mindy’s Crüe is planning on walking again this year at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. Seeing so many people come out to support those who are currently facing breast cancer, those who have fought and won, and those who unfortunately lost their struggle is inspirational. Knowing that so many people are behind the cause and want to find a cure is emotional and remarkable.
Mindy now looks in the mirror and sees how different she looks with her hair grown back and has started to feel a sense of normalcy. She hopes that by sharing her experience she can motivate other women to get a regular mammogram (especially the 3D mammogram) and to insist on the best options for themselves for their health care.