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.
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.
Death, taxes, presbyopia. It happens to everyone eventually. Cheery, really. While typically it begins around age 40, presbyopia can occur at any time. You may find yourself holding your smartphone farther away. You may hold the menu at the restaurant at arms length in order to see it clearly. Or you may be experiencing headaches more after reading.
Presbyopia is farsightedness caused by the loss of elasticity of the lens of the eye. As we age, it becomes harder for the lens to focus on things close up. It’s a completely normal process, and one that cannot be prevented. Many people struggle with the fact that presbyopia is so closely tied with aging; but it is an inevitable condition, and it can be treated.
Bifocals, progressive lenses and special reading glasses are often the choice for people who are looking for a solution to do up close work. Being able to choose stylish frames with no-line, progressive lenses is a popular way to correct presbyopia without the stigma of aging. There are also multifocal contact lenses and surgical options for people looking for a no-eyewear solution.
Presbyopia can worsen over time though, so once you begin to notice the symptoms, it is a good idea to continue to get regular check ups with your eye doctor to stay on top of your prescription.
Doctor Spotlight: James Devine, OD
Dr. James Devine’s main motivations have always been people and how to help as many of them as he can. He is particularly drawn to people who have challenging situations and complicated conditions. His decision to become an optometrist was fueled by this motivation and his love for science. Optometry gives him the opportunity to take care of people’s most precious sense while using science and technology to achieve maximum clarity and long term health.
Dr. Devine particularly likes solving difficult and complicated cases. He loves knowing what a difference he is able to make in people’s lives. He also enjoys educating patients on the details of their conditions and giving them the best information on how to manage them. He is honored to have been able to take care of the vision of so many and looks forward every day to working with the great ECS team.
Dr. Devine is an ardent supporter of Shared Vision International and has been on several trips to Haiti over the years. “My heart is lifted to see happiness in the people we serve who often have so little to hope for, yet are so grateful for what we can provide,” he says.
He also serves on the Norris School Board, volunteers as a TeamMates mentor and is active in his church.
Doctor Spotlight: Todd Pfeil, OD
Dr. Todd Pfeil is passionate about meeting people and doing whatever he can to help make their lives as rich as possible. He was able to watch people’s lives change when he worked with a local optometrist in high school and became hooked on being able to use his future do the same.
Dr. Pfeil’s specialties include fitting contact lenses for patients whose vision cannot be corrected with spectacle lenses alone. He finds helping restore vision for people who didn’t realize they had options extremely rewarding.
Dr. Pfeil takes his dedication to making the world a better place everywhere he goes. He has recently returned from his 8th trip to Haiti with Shared Vision International providing optometric care and eyewear to people in remote areas. He is proud to be able to help Shared Vision on a larger scale as the Director of Operations. He also volunteers for the Lincoln Back Pack program with the Lincoln Food Bank and Sheridan Lutheran’s Barnabas program.
When he’s not helping patients with their vision or volunteering in the community, Dr. Pfeil makes sure to spend quality time with his wife and three children. Family time is very important, and he wants to make sure to enjoy every second.
Doctor Spotlight: Steve Jacobsen, OD
As a farm boy growing up in rural north central Iowa, Steve Jacobsen knew how much he enjoyed fixing things. At the age of 12 he knew he wanted to be an optometrist. He loves being able to help correct people’s vision and help them see all of the fantastic things life has to offer.
A fixture in the Fremont community for many years, Dr. Jacobsen was very excited to join the EyeCare team and incorporate all of the latest technology into his practice. He loves being able to discuss the newest trends in eye care with his associates in Lincoln.
Dr. Jacobsen translates his appreciation for vision into creating works of art. He has served as a past president of the Fremont Area Art Association, and he also enjoys taking photos for the Fremont Tribune with his wife, Debra a freelance writer. You can also catch Dr. Jacobsen playing the trombone with the North Bend Area Community Band.
Dr. Jacobsen wants people to know how important it is for people to receive comprehensive exams regularly. It’s possible to lose your vision without anything being seen or felt. Your doctor can monitor the health of your eyes and notice changes so that you can continue to appreciate all of the wonderful sights of life.
Take Us With You: Nature Photography Tips
At EyeCare Specialties, we know what a gift vision is, and we work to make sure your eyes are as healthy as can be so that you can enjoy the beauty in nature.
Here are some tips on how to capture some of those memories.
1. Lighting. Early morning or late afternoon/evening tend to produce some amazing shots but you can also get good photos during the day. Just make sure to keep the sun at your back and consider shooting from a lower angle to minimize harsh shadows.
2. Subject. Make a beautiful shot even better by choosing a subject for your photo. Rather than just a group of trees, focus on one in particular that stands out to you. This will help your photo tell a story and create interest for the viewer.
3. Leading lines & Framing. Consider visual cues that lead the viewer’s eye to your subject and framing the subject in a unique way by using other elements in nature. For example, you could take a photo of an interesting rock structure by using the branches of a tree in the foreground.
4. There are no rules. If something looks compelling to you, take a picture of it. After all, that is what photography is, a way to create visual memories. The important thing is to get outside and really open your eyes. You’ll be amazed by what you see.
Join us for the Take Us With You Photo Contest at Pioneers Park’s Wild Adventure Days on Saturday, April 29 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Upload a photo using #ECSeyes to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram by noon 4/30 and you could win $100 gift card to EyeCare Specialties. Make sure your post settings are public, though, so that we can see your shot.