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.
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.
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.
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.
Doctor Spotlight: Doug Harshman, OD
Doug Harshman’s life has taken him all over the country. He has studied in Texas and met his wife while practicing optometry at the VA hospital in Spokane, WA. But he eventually felt the draw back to Nebraska to become a vital part of the EyeCare Specialties team.
There are so many reasons that Dr. Harshman enjoys being a part of the ECS team. He loves the camaraderie between the other doctors. He also enjoys working with the well-trained staff and knowing that, as a part of ECS, he is able to provide his patients the best possible services and products.
His faith in the organization as a whole makes him proud to be a part of EyeCare Specialties, “I can sleep well at night knowing my patients are being well taken care of by our entire team.”
Dr. Harshman relishes his role as father too. He is very active as both a soccer and basketball coach for his children’s teams. He also volunteers at their school, helping out with weekly traffic duty and however else he can lend a hand.