The Science of Tears: Do I Have Dry Eye?
Do you experience eye dryness, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, or discomfort in windy or dry conditions? What about difficulty performing visual tasks, difficulty wearing contact lenses, frequent use of eye drops, or amplified symptoms later in the day? These are all signs that you may be experiencing a common condition called keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), and commonly referred to as Dry Eye Syndrome.
While tears are necessary for your overall eye health, dry eyes can occur when tear production and drainage is not in balance. Without proper treatment, inadequate tears can make daily activities frustrating, affecting your personal and professional life. Everyday tasks like reading, watching TV, driving, or working on the computer can be more difficult when you are experiencing Dry Eye.
The most common form of Dry Eye is Evaporative Dry Eye, which represents 86% of all Dry Eye cases. Evaporative Dry Eye results from a shortage of oil in your tears caused by a blockage in your eyelid (Meibomian) glands, leading to tears that evaporate faster than normal. Dry Eye can be caused by the natural aging process, medications, certain medical conditions like diabetes and thyroid issues, environmental factors, and more.
LipiFlow is a procedure designed to treat the root cause of Evaporative Dry Eye, blocked Meibomian glands. LipiFlow works by applying directed energy to the eyelid near the affected glands — precisely targeted warmth from the back of the eyelid, and slight pressure from the front. The LipiFlow treatment can unblock glands, interrupt physical deterioration and, in most cases, provide symptom relief.
Lipiflow is a drug-free procedure that improves your gland function. Over 86% of patients with a single Lipiflow procedure showed an improvement in meibomian gland function and dry eye symptoms. We use the LipiFlow System to treat patients right in our office with confidence and efficiency.
If you are suffering from dry, red, irritated eyes, talk to your optometrist about what treatment options would work best for you. To find out more about LipiFlow, check out our Videos page or the LipiFlow page.
Eyesight is Acuity and Vision
Your eyesight is comprised of the performance of the all the components involved in your visual system. Acuity and vision are two important elements of your total eyesight, and each can have unique issues and challenges.
Acuity is the clearness of your vision and the most common measurement of your eyesight. Acuity is measured by the ability to identify symbols of varied sizes at a specific distance. You’ve probably had many eye exams to test the acuity of your eyes. The acuity of your eyesight is the smallest size that you can clearly identify. For example, an acuity of 20/20 generally means that from 20 feet away you can see as clearly as a person with normal eyesight would see from 20 feet away. An acuity of 20/40 means that from 20 feet away you can see the same as a person with normal eyesight would see from 40 feet away. The maximum acuity of the human eye is generally thought to be around 20/10, which means you can see with more acuity than is thought to be normal.
Vision, on the other hand, refers to a dynamic thought process that creates your comprehension of what you see using your senses to create perception of the world around you. While your acuity will help you read signs clearly at a distance when driving down the road, vision will help you perceive distances between those signs, judge the speed of the car you are passing, merge safely, and notice a pedestrian in the road suddenly.
Each attribute can have specific issues. For example, problems with your eyesight might be an astigmatism where an irregularly shaped cornea or lens makes it difficult for light to focus properly on the retina and vision becomes blurred at any distance. Myopia, or nearsightedness, is another common problem where you cannot see distant objects as clearly as objects that are near. Problems with your vision may include color blindness or amblyopia, where the vision in one eye suffers because the brain and eye are not working properly together.
At EyeCare Specialties, we have specialists that can help you to see your best no matter what element of your eyesight is challenging to you. From Vision Therapy to corrective lenses, we will help you see with your best eyesight possible.
Sources: National Eye Institute (NEI) and American Optometric Association
Protecting Your Vision
Protecting your vision and prioritizing healthy eyes has wide-reaching health benefits that can help you prevent disease and maintain quality eyesight throughout your life. Following these three tips will help you set yourself up for successful eye health in 2018 and beyond.
Schedule an appointment in 2018!
Schedule an appointment to see us for a comprehensive exam in 2018. Many common eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration can only be revealed through regular exams from your eye doctor. Catching these diseases in their early stages is the best way to protect yourself from vision loss. Even if no disease is detected, an eye exam can reveal common vision problems that many people don’t realize can be improved upon or even prevent further loss with glasses or contact lenses.
Use protective eyewear and sunglasses
Protecting your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays or eye injuries is one of best ways to protect your vision. Fortunately, it has never looked so good on you! Come visit our optical gallery and invest in a pair of sunglasses that block out both UV radiation or quality protective eyewear for sports and other activities.
Manage your health
Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight, and quit smoking as soon as possible. These three health tips will not only improve your overall health, but each of them can lower your risk of developing health conditions and diseases that lead to vision loss.
Sources: The National Eye Institute (NEI)
Myopia in the Modern Age
Myopia is the technical term for nearsightedness. It means that things at a distance are not clear and easy to see. Once myopia is discovered during a child’s eye exam, it typically increases in children until about the age of 21.
Between the 1970s and the early 2000s, the incidents of myopia in the US almost doubled to 42%. People are losing their distance vision at an alarming rate, and no one really knows why. The cause is debated amongst researchers who have studied everything from the effects of device use to bright sunlight and how eyes focus on far away objects. While the increase in children’s activities surrounding using devices and looking at books indoors might play a role, many studies have shown that spending time outdoors in early childhood reduces the onset of myopia. Some scientists believe it could be related to exposure to sunlight or the opportunity to allow eyes to focus on objects far away.
While the exact cause may not be clear, we can slow down myopia in children by using contact lenses that slow down the progression of nearsightedness so that the child does not develop as high of a degree of myopia. Not only does this mean that the child’s vision will clearer, but the health risks associated with myopia, such as retinal detachment, glaucoma, and cataracts, can also be slowed down to help the child live their life to the fullest.
For more information on correcting myopia, check out our video with Dr. Todd Pfeil.
Sources: National Eyes Institute, Wired Magazine
Winter and Your Eyes
Winter sports, cozy fires, and bright white landscapes can all take their toll on your eyes over the coldest season of the year. Don’t let good vision go bad! Take a few precautions to ensure safe and healthy eyes this season.
The sun is out
Winter can be even more damaging for your eyes than the summer since the brightness of the snow can actually double ultraviolet (UV) ray damage to your eyes when the sun’s rays reflect from the snow. These UV rays can put you at greater risk for cataracts and other eye conditions, and UV rays reflected from the snow can actually burn your eyes.
Don’t forget to use sunglasses that block UV light, and consider a visor for extended activities on particularly bright days.
The heat is up
It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but as temperatures drop the air holds less humidity. The hot air from a cozy fire can also both irritate and dry your eyes, especially if you suffer from Dry Eye Disease, a chronic condition that impacts the production of tears.
When enjoying a fire, or even a heater, take breaks from direct heat, sit further away, and use eye drops to keep our eyes moist.
Winter allergies and irritants
Unfortunately, irritants from pet dander to mold are amplified in the winter months when you’re shut indoors, especially in milder years before frosts and freezes kill off the pollen. Allergy sufferers can find themselves with dry, itchy eyes over the winter months.
Consider using dust free, artificial decorations or electric fires to avoid natural irritants. You may also use a humidifier/dehumidifier to keep the air inside your home between 30% – 50% humidity.
Winter’s outdoor activities can expose you to slush, ice, and other debris. Sporting activities like skiing, snowboarding, and sledding expose your eyes to particles that can irritate and scratch your eyes, not to mention put you at risk for a crash with trees and branches that can damage your eyes. Use goggles with built in UV protection during winter sports for maximum protection.
If you are experiencing particularly uncomfortable, dry eyes this winter, contact your eye doctor about your symptoms. Seek treatment immediately if you feel as though your eyes have been damaged.
Healthy Eye Development in Infants
Newborn babies can see up to 12 inches away, which is usually just about to the face of anyone holding baby. Beyond that, a newborn can detect shapes, light, and movement. Babies are drawn to high contrast patterns and faces at this stage because nearly everything else is a blur. Many newborns struggle to use their eyes in tandem, so they may even appear crosseyed or to have a wandering eye at times.
By this stage, babies have improved their ability to use both eyes together, somewhat. At the first month marker, many babies can now focus both eyes on a moving object to track it. A baby will likely still prefer high-contrast patterns at this stage, but is developing a more nuanced sense of color.
At two months, babies’ brains begin working to learn how to distinguish colors and they may now focus on bright, primary colors and more intricate designs. Babies also begin to develop more advanced abilities to track objects and distinguishing various tones in color.
A baby will begin distinguishing size and shapes of objects, as well as their position in the world. As your baby’s eyes and brain work together to solidify their sense of objects and their proximity, they will begin getting the message to grab ahold of objects in front of their faces. They may still lack to the motor development to truly coordinate this task, but a baby’s skills will improve very quickly with practice.
Babies have begin developing object permanence at this stage, and their ability to track small objects is much improved. A baby can also distinguish between bold, primary colors at this point, and may begin developing a preference for lighter, pastel shades.
At this point, your baby has developed vision very similar to an adult in depth and clarity, but their brains need more time to learn how to process what it is they are actually seeing and their motor skills need lots of fine-tuning. At eight months, the color of a baby’s eyes have also liked reached their final color.
Healthy Vision for Infants
Sources: American Optometric Association, American Academy of Ophthalmology
Current Eyewear Trends
On-trend tortoiseshell patterned eyewear is updated with complimentary tones varying from blonde to brunette hues. We’ll also see new variations of tortoise coupled with metallic bridge pieces in a variety of colors.
Thin Metal is in. Look for lightweight sculpted lines from rounded to aviator shapes. Many high-end brands are also adding geometric shapes and rimless eyewear to their collections this season.
All that Glitters is Gold
Look for arresting gold accents to add sparkle to traditional patterns and shapes. Gold temple details and bridges add interest to acetate and geometric wire styles.
The World is Flat Again
From flat lenses to flat matte, smooth is trending. Top brands have launched flat lenses and translucent frames with superflat metals or versatile neutral toned acetate for a contemporary take on classics, ideal for daily wear.
Look for sunglasses with colorful lenses to match your mood. Coordinate or contrast with frames for a colorful combination, or choose ombre lenses for a stylish impact.
Aviators, aviators, and more aviators – you will find this classic sunglass shape updated with a pop of colored lenses, frames, double rims, and ombre shades.
Double bridge and double wire sunglasses are hot. The extra support lends a dose of durability and extra support, and come in a variety of hues and shapes.
Forces of Darkness
Blackout shades add mystery and intrigue to classic sunglass shapes. From super dark to super ultra mega dark, protecting your eyes never looked so good.
Why have Eye Dilation or Optomap® Exams?
A standard eye exam allows your optometrist only a limited view of the retina inside of your eye. To adequately examine your eyes for conditions that could potentially lead to vision loss, your doctor needs a full view of your retina at the back of each eye. For this reason, your doctor may recommend a dilated eye exam or Optomap® retinal image.
During an examination that includes dilation, eye drops are used to widen your pupils. This allows your doctor to see a larger area of the retina. The procedure can lead to earlier detection of eye diseases such as macular degeneration, retinal detachment, and glaucoma. It may also reveal other health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.
The National Institutes of Health recommend a dilated eye exam yearly for those 60 or older due to the risk of eye disease increasing with age. Your risk also increases if you have a medical history that includes conditions such as retinal detachment or diabetes.
Unfortunately, the drops used in eye dilation can blur your vision and make your eyes more sensitive to light for hours after the exam. The dilation process can take about 15-30 minutes more than a standard exam with the negative side effects lasting around 4-6 hours in adults. While these effects vary by patient, distance and near vision may be more difficult during this time.
Better detection leads to better outcomes, and at EyeCare Specialties, we provide the highest level of care by using the most advanced diagnostic tools for a comfortable and efficient exam. Our Optomap® retinal image allows our eye doctors to view up to 80% of the retina at one time. The image detail can then be magnified and used to view up to 200° of the retina. Best of all, for a majority of patients, it eliminates the need for dilation in order to examine the retina. This will allow a much faster screening for retinal eye disease.
What are Cataracts? (And How to Avoid Them!)
A cataract is a clouding of your eye’s lens that can impair your vision. Most cataracts develop when age or injury changes the tissue in your eyes. The cloudiness may affect only a small portion of your eyesight and be undetectable at first, but over time, the cataract may grow. Larger cataracts will cloud a wider surface area of your eye’s lens, distorting more light as it passes through the lens and creating more dramatic vision loss and blurring.
Cataracts are the most common reason for vision loss in the US and the leading cause of blindness worldwide. They can occur at any age and even be present at birth. Eye conditions like past eye surgeries or medical diagnoses such as diabetes can also play a role in developing cataracts. Even some genetic disorders increase your risk of cataracts.
Treatment for the removal of many types of cataracts is widely available, but you can decrease your risk for developing cataracts in the first place by avoiding certain behaviors.
Manage your diabetes
Unfortunately, those with diabetes face a greater risk of developing cataracts. Closely monitoring your blood sugar can decrease your risk of suffering impaired vision and improve your overall health.
Protect your eyes
Avoid excessive exposure to sunlight and use sunglasses with UV protection. Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and other sources may cause chemicals called free radicals to form in the eye’s lens, which can then damage tissues and cause cataracts to develop in the first place.
Quit smoking and excessive drinking
Both smoking cigarettes and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol are linked to increased development of cataracts. In fact, your risk of developing cataracts actually increases with the amount that you smoke, and smoking doubles your risk of developing cataracts generally. Excessive drinking increases your cataract risk, too. Quit smoking or never start to eliminate this highly preventable risk and moderate your drinking.
Eat a healthy diet and manage your weight
Obesity is linked to cataracts, but a healthy diet decreases your risk. Some studies have shown that a healthy diet can decrease the development of certain types of cataracts. For example, omega-3 fatty acids like those found in fish sources or flaxseed has been shown to reduce cataract development in women. Similar studies have shown foods high in antioxidants and vitamins C and E can also decrease cataract development.
Manage your high blood pressure
Untreated high blood pressure can lead to many health problems, including increasing your risk for cataracts and increase your risk of developing other eye disease that can then later increase your risk of cataracts. Hypertension can especially cause significant damage to the blood vessels in the retina.
Avoid prolonged use of corticosteroids
Prolonged use of corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone or prednisone has been linked to an increase risk of developing cataracts. Discuss with your doctor balancing the risks and benefits of these medications with your risk for developing cataracts.
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.