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Is Too Much Screen Time Dangerous For Your Kids?

Screen Time Pros and Cons

Whether it is homework, email, gaming, chatting with friends, searching the web or watching Youtube, kids these days seem to have an endless number of reasons to be glued to a screen. Many parents out there are wondering how bad this can be for their kids and whether they should be limiting screen time.

There are certainly benefits to allowing your kids to use digital devices, whether it is educational, social or providing a needed break. However, studies show that excessive screen time can have behavioral consequences such as irritability, moodiness, inability to concentrate, poor behavior, and other issues as well. Too much screen time is also linked to dry eyes and meibomian gland disorders (likely due to a decreased blink rate when using devices), as well as eye strain and irritation, headaches, back or neck and shoulder pain, and sleep disturbances. Some of these computer vision syndrome symptoms are attributed to blue light that is emitted from the screens of digital devices.

Blue light is a short wavelength, high-energy visible light that is emitted by digital screens, LED lights and the sun. Studies suggest that exposure to some waves of blue light over extended periods of time may be harmful to the light-sensitive cells of the retina at the back of the eye. When these cells are damaged, vision loss can occur. Research indicates that extreme blue light exposure could lead to macular degeneration or other serious eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness. Studies show that blue light also interferes with the regulation of the the body’s circadian rhythm which can have a disruptive impact on the body’s sleep cycle. Lack of quality sleep can lead to serious health consequences as well.

Beyond these studies, the long term effects of blue light exposure from digital devices are not yet known since this is really the first generation in which people are using digital devices to such an extent. While it may take years to fully understand the impact of excessive screen time on our eyes and overall health, it is probably worth limiting it due to these preliminary findings and the risks it may pose. This is especially true for young children and the elderly, who are particularly susceptible to blue light exposure.

How to Protect the Eyes From Blue Light

The first step in proper eye protection is abstaining from excessive exposure by limiting the amount of time spent using a computer, smart phone or tablet – especially at night, to avoid interfering with sleep. Many pediatricians even recommend zero screen time for children under two.

The next step would be to reduce the amount of blue light entering the eyes by using blue light blocking glasses or coatings that deflect the light away from the eyes. There are also apps and screen filters that you can add to your devices to reduce the amount of blue light being projected from the screen. Speak to your eye doctor about steps you can take to reduce blue light exposure from digital devices.

As a side note, the sun is an even greater source of blue light so it is essential to protect your child’s eyes with UV and blue light blocking sunglasses any time your child goes outside – even on overcast days.

The eyes of children under 18 are particularly susceptible to damage from environmental exposure as they have transparent crystalline lenses that are more susceptible to both UV and blue light rays. While the effects (such as increased risk of age-related macular degeneration) may not be seen for decades later, it’s worth it to do what you can now to prevent future damage and risk for vision loss.

 

Trouble Seeing the Fine Print? Here are Your Options…

Every good pair of eyes eventually gets old and with age comes a condition called presbyopia. Presbyopia, which usually begins to set in some time around 40, occurs when the lens of the eye begins to stiffen, making near vision (such as reading books, menus, and computer screens) blurry. You may have this age-related farsightedness if you notice yourself holding the newspaper further and further away in order to make out the words, and you may begin to experience headaches or eyestrain as well. 

The good news is, presbyopia is very common. It happens to most of us eventually and these days there are a number of good options to correct it. First of all, let’s take a look at what causes the condition.

What Causes Presbyopia?

As the eye ages, the natural lens begins to lose its elasticity as the focusing muscles (the ciliary muscles) surrounding the lens have difficulty changing the shape of the lens. The lens is responsible for focusing light that comes into the eye onto the retina for clear vision. The hardened or less flexible lens causes the light which used to focus on the retina to shift its focal point behind the retina when looking at close objects. This causes blurred vision. 

Presbyopia is a progressive condition that gets worse with time. It is a refractive error just like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism. 

Signs of presbyopia include:

  • Blurred near vision
  • Difficulty focusing on small print or close objects
  • Eyestrain, headaches or fatigue, especially when reading or doing close work
  • Holding reading material at a distance to see properly
  • Needing brighter light to see close objects

Presbyopia can be diagnosed through an eye exam. 

Treatments for Presbyopia

There are a number of options for presbyopia treatment which include glasses, contact lenses or surgery. 

Glasses

The most common form of correction is eyeglasses. Reading glasses adjust the focal point of the target to reduce the focusing demand on the eyes. A side effect of the convex lenses is that they also magnify the target. For some, reading glasses are sufficient to improve close vision. Others, especially those with another refractive error, require more complex lenses. 

Bifocal or multifocal lenses, including progressive addition lenses (PALs), offer a solution for those with nearsightedness or farsightedness. These lenses have two or more prescriptions within the same lens, usually in different areas, to allow correction for distance vision and near vision within the same lens. While bifocals and standard multifocals typically divide the lenses into two hemispheres (or more), requiring the patient to look in the proper hemisphere depending on where they are focusing, with an unattractive contour calling attention to the presbyopia portion of the lens, progressive lenses provide a progressive transition of lens power creating a smooth, gradual change. Some people prefer progressive lenses for aesthetic reasons as they don’t have a visible line dividing the hemispheres.

Contact Lenses

Like glasses, contact lenses are also available in bifocal and multifocal lenses. Alternatively, some eye doctors will prescribe monovision contact lens wear, which divides the vision between your eyes. Typically it fits your dominant eye with a single vision lens for distance vision and your weaker eye with a single vision lens for near vision. Sometimes your eye doctor will prescribe modified monovision which uses a multifocal lens in the weaker eye to cover intermediate and near vision. Newer contact lens technology is making both lenses multifocal, and therefore doctors are becoming less dependent on monovision. Sometimes monovision takes a while to adjust to.

Based on your prescription, your eye doctor will help you decide which option is best for you and assist you through the adjustment period to determine whether this is a feasible option. Since there are so many baby boomers with presbyopia nowadays, the contact lens choices have expanded a lot within recent years.

Surgery

There are a few surgical treatments available for presbyopia. These include monovision LASIK surgery (which is a refractive surgery that works similar to monovision glasses or contact lenses), corneal inlays or onlays (implants placed on the cornea), refractive lens exchange (similar to cataract surgery, this replaces the old, rigid lens with a manufactured intraocular lens), and conductive keratoplasty (which uses radio waves to reshape the cornea in a noninvasive procedure). 

Medication – On the Horizon

There are currently clinical trials with promising early results that are testing eye drops that restore the flexibility of the human lens. It could be possible that in the near future eye drop prescriptions could be used to reduce the amount of time that people have to use reading glasses or contact lenses. 

These procedures vary in cost, recovery and outcome. If you are interested in surgery, schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable doctor to learn all of the details of the different options. 

As people are living longer, presbyopia is affecting a greater percentage of the population and more research is being done into treatments for the condition. So if your arm is getting tired from holding books so far away, see your eye doctor to discuss the best option for you. 

Aging Eyes and Driving Safety 

Even if you don’t have any eye or vision problems, the natural process of aging affects your ability to see and react to visual stimuli. It’s important to know the impact the aging can have on your eyes and vision so you can take the necessary precautions to stay safe and protect your eyes.

Driving is one activity that can pose a high risk as safe driving requires not only good vision, but also intact cognition and motor response. As we age, reflexes, reaction time and vision begin to deteriorate, which can impair one’s ability to drive safely, particularly under conditions such as bad weather, twilight glare, or nighttime darkness. Here are some ways that your ability to drive can be impaired as you age and some safety tips to help you to stay safe on the roads. 

The Aging Eye

As we age, the eye and vision naturally begin to experience a decline. The pupils in the eye, which allow light to enter, begin to shrink and dilate less, allowing less light to enter the retina. This causes reduced night vision. Additionally, some of our peripheral vision diminishes along with our ability to see moving objects. 

Due to deterioration of the cornea and clouding of the lens of the eye, glare becomes more disruptive and contrast sensitivity is reduced, making it harder to perceive images clearly. General imperfections in vision called higher-order aberrations cause a general decline in vision that can’t be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Additionally, our reaction times slow, adding motor complications to the visual ones. Dry eyes also becomes a bigger problem with age as the lacrimal glands don’t produce as many tears to keep the eyes moist. Many of these symptoms may be present without the individual even noticing a decline and can all contribute to increased risk – for the driver, and others on the road.

If you add in any other vision problems such as cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration which are age-related diseases that gradually reduce vision, you can have a serious danger on your hands. 

Avoid Distractions

The biggest driving distraction in our day and age is cell phone usage. While many states and provinces have created laws which forbid driving and texting or holding a phone, it is not universal, and this still causes countless accidents and deaths that could be easily avoided. Even hands-free options distract you from the road and put you at risk. If you must use your phone to speak, dial or text, pull over first.

Plan Ahead

If you can avoid driving at night or on hazardous roads with sharp turns, inadequate lighting or that are unfamiliar to you, you will be better off. Plan to make first time trips during the day when you can clearly see street signs and landmarks or take a practice trip with a loved one. 

Purchase Night Vision Glasses

There are glasses available that can help to reduce the glare at night and enable better night time vision. Speak to your optometrist about whether this is a good option for you.

Turn Vents Down

Car vents can also cause discomfort, eye irritation and create greater vision hazard, as the air blowing at the eyes can impair vision or cause watering, especially when the eye are already dry. 

Maintain Good Eye Health

Make sure that you get your eyes checked on a regular basis and that any eye conditions you have are being treated and monitored. Good nutrition, exercise and overall healthy habits will help to protect and heal your eyes as well. Further, listen to your instincts, if you feel unsafe driving or if your doctor (or family members) tell you it’s time to hand in the keys, think about utilizing other means of transportation to get around. 

Many times people are able to pass their vision test at the driver’s license bureau which gives them a false sense of security, but in reality they are not seeing well, especially at night or in bad weather. In many areas there are courses available for senior citizens to test out driving skills with instructors who do an evaluation and give feedback on their real abilities. It’s critical for seniors to speak to their eye doctors about their true vision level and any restrictions that they recommend. 

The key to eye health and safety is awareness. You can’t stop your eyes from aging but you can take the necessary precautions to ensure that you are protecting your eyes, yourself and those around you by knowing how your eyes and vision are affected.

Inside a Life With Color Vision Deficiency

What’s it like to be color blind? Contrary to what the name implies, color blindness usually does not actually mean that you don’t see any color, but rather that you have difficulty perceiving or distinguishing between certain colors. This is why many prefer the term color vision deficiency or CVD to describe the condition. CVD affects men more than women, appearing in approximately 8% of men (1 in 12) and .5% of women (1 in 200) worldwide. 

Having color vision deficiency means that you perceive color in a more limited way than those with normal color vision. This ranges from mild, in which you may not even be aware that you are experiencing color differently, to severe, which is perhaps the more appropriate from to be called “color blind” and involves the inability to see certain colors. 

CVD can be inherited; it is caused by abnormalities in the genes that produce photopigments located in the cone cells in your eyes. The eyes contain different cone cells that fire in response to a specific color, blue, green or red and together allow you to see the depth and range of colors that the normal eye can see. The type of color blindness and therefore the type of color vision that is impaired, is based on which photopigments are abnormal. The most common form of CVD is red-green, followed by blue-yellow. Total color blindness or the complete inability to perceive color is quite rare. About 7% of males have congenital color blindness that they inherit from the mother’s X-chromosome. 

Color blindness can also be the result of eye damage, specifically to the optic nerve, or to the area in the brain that processes color. Sometimes an eye disease, such as cataracts, can also impact one’s ability to perceive color. Systemic diseases such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis can also cause acquired CVD. 

Living with CVD

Red-green color blindness does not mean only that you can’t tell the difference between red and green, but rather that any color that has some red or green (such as purple, orange, brown, pink, some shades of gray, etc) in it is affected. 

You many not realize all of the ways you use even subtle distinctions in color in your daily life. Here are some examples of ways that CVD can impact your life and make seemingly everyday tasks challenging:

  • You may not be able to cook meat to the desired temperature based on color. 
  • Most of the colors in a box of crayons will be indistinguishable.
  • You may not be able to distinguish between red and green LED displays on electronic devices that indicate power on and off. 
  • You may not be able to tell between a ripe and unripe fruit or vegetable such as bananas (green vs. yellow) or tomatoes (red vs green). 
  • Chocolate sauce, barbecue sauce and ketchup may all look the same. 
  • Bright green vegetables can look unappealing as they appear greenish, brown or grey. 
  • You may not be able to distinguish color coded pie charts or graphs (which can cause difficulty in school or work). 
  • Selecting an outfit that matches can be difficult. 

Knowing that one is color blind is important for some occupations that require good color discrimination such as the police officers, railway workers, pilots, electricians etc.  These are just a few of the ways that CVD can impact one’s daily life. So is there a cure? Not yet. 

While there is no cure for CVD, there is research being done into gene therapies and in the meantime there are corrective devices available including color vision glasses (such as the Enchroma brand) and color filtering contacts that for some can help to enhance color for some people. If you think you might have CVD, your optometrist can perform some tests to diagnose it or rule it out. If you have CVD, you can speak to your eye doctor about options that might be able to help you experience your world in full color. 

How to Safely View the Great American Eclipse of 2017

On August 21st, for the first time since 1979, a solar eclipse will be visible across North America. What’s even more historic is that it will also be the first time an eclipse will be visible across the continent, from coast to coast, since 1918. If you want to bear witness to this historic event, it is important to do so safely which means being knowledgeable about the event and prepared to protect your eyes from potential serious damage and vision loss.

First of all, here are the facts about the upcoming eclipse. A total solar eclipse is when the moon completely blocks the face of the sun (called the photosphere) leaving only the sun’s outer ring, called the corona, in view. This event happens briefly, and will only be visible for certain parts of the United States for up to two minutes and forty seconds during the upcoming celestial event. All of North America, including mainland US and Canada, however, will be able to view a partial eclipse for the duration of about two to three hours. You can search online to see which part of the eclipse will be visible from your location and what time you will be able to see it.

With 500 million people in the viewing range of the eclipse, thousands are excitedly preparing for what could be for many a once-in-a-lifetime experience, however, it’s crucial to make sure that this is done safely to protect your eyes and vision from serious damage that can occur from viewing an eclipse without proper eye protection.

Looking at a Solar Eclipse

Viewing a solar eclipse without proper eye protection is extremely dangerous and can cause permanent vision loss. Looking directly at the sun can cause a condition called Solar Retinopathy or retinal burns which can cause damage to and destroy cells in the retina, which communicates visual cues with the brain. It can also burn the macula which is responsible for central vision. While we usually have a hard time looking directly at the sun which helps to protect us from this condition, during an eclipse because the sun is partially covered by the moon, looking directly at the sun becomes less difficult. Nevertheless, the exposure to the damaging rays of the sun is just as strong and therefore the risk just as great.

It’s important to note that solar burns to the retina do not cause symptoms during that time that you are looking at the eclipse. There is no pain or discomfort. However, the longer you look at it, the deeper the hole that burns through the retina and you would not notice the vision loss until hours later. There is no treatment for solar retinopathy. Many will notice recovery in vision, but depending on the severity of damage there may be only partial recovery which may take up to 6 months after viewing the eclipse.

Eclipse Glasses: Solar Eclipse Eye Protection

Do not view the eclipse without proper eye protection. Protecting your eyes during an eclipse with specially designed eyewear or solar viewers is a must. The American Optometric Association and NASA have released the following statement regarding eye protection: “There is only one safe way to look directly at the sun, whether during an eclipse or not: through special-purpose solar filters. These solar filters are used in “eclipse glasses” or in hand-held solar viewers. They must meet a very specific worldwide standard known as ISO 12312-2.”

It’s important to note that regular sunglasses are not sufficient in protecting your eyes. Here are some additional safety tips issued by NASA for viewing the eclipse:

  • Stand still and cover the eyes with eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove the filter—do not remove it while looking at the sun.
  • Do not look at the un-eclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical device. Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer—the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.
  • If you are within the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it gets quite dark.

If you plan to view the eclipse, make sure that you plan ahead and obtain eclipse glasses or solar viewers for every person that plans to enjoy the experience. Keep this once in a lifetime experience a safe and enjoyable one.

To obtain eclipse glasses, contact your local optometrist, or visit the American Optometry Association website for more information.

Are Your Eyes Sensitive to Light?

Light sensitivity, also known as photophobia, is a condition in which bright light – either natural sunlight or artificial light –  can cause significant discomfort, pain and intolerance. People that experience light sensitivity will find themselves needing to close their eyes or squint when exposed to light and often experience headaches and nausea as well.  In mild cases, the discomfort accompanies exposure to bright lights or harsh sunlight, but in severe cases even a small amount of light can cause pain and discomfort.  

Photophobia is more common in individuals with light eyes. This is because the greater amounts of pigment in darker eyes help to protect the eye from the harsh rays of light. The darker pigment of the iris and choroid absorbs the light, rather than reflecting the light and causing internal reflection or glare experienced by those with lighter eyes. People with albinism, which is a total lack of eye pigment, also experience significant light sensitivity for this reason. 

Acute photophobia is usually a symptom that accompanies a condition such as an eye infection or irritation (such as conjunctivitis or dry eyes), a virus, or a migraine (light sensitivity is one of the most common symptoms of migraines). It could also be caused by something more serious such as an eye condition like a corneal abrasion, a detached retina, uveitis or iritis or a systemic disease like meningitis or encephalitis. Light sensitivity is also a side effect of refractive surgery (such as LASIK) and some medications (such as tetracycline and doxycycline).  

How to Deal with Photophobia

The most effective way to reduce the discomfort caused by photophobia is to stay out of sunlight and dim indoor lights as much as possible while you are experiencing symptoms. Wearing dark sunglasses and keeping your eyes closed may also provide some relief. 

In the summer it is more common for UV to trigger corneal inflammation (keratitis) and cause photosensitivity as well. Wind and eye dryness can also set off photosensitivity, which are more good reasons to wear sunglasses. 

If the sensitivity is new and the cause is unknown, you should seek medical attention immediately, especially if you experience any of the following symptoms:  

  • Blurry vision
  • Burning or pain in the eye
  • Fever and chills
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Severe headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness
  • Foreign body sensation

In cases where the photophobia is a symptom of an underlying issue, treating the issue will likely cause relief in your sensitivity. This will vary depending on the ailment but could include pain medications, eye drops or antibiotics, or anti-inflammatory medications. If the sensitivity is mild due to your genetic predisposition or a result of surgery, make sure you take your sunglasses every time you leave the house. People who wear prescription eyeglasses may consider photochromic lenses which automatically darken when exposed to light. 

If you are uncomfortable, speak to your eye doctor about the best options for your condition.  

Got a Shiner!

What Exactly Is a Black Eye?

A black eye, also known as a periorbital hematoma, is usually not an injury of the actual eye (which is why it is called “periorbital”- around the eye). It typically occurs when there is an injury to the face or the eye socket which causes bleeding beneath the skin and bruising. The term, “black eye” comes from the dark coloring of the bruising that occurs underneath the skin around the eye.

When a blunt force hits the eye socket, this can cause capillaries in the area to burst, causing hemorrhaging, also known as a hematoma. This blood can accumulate in the eye socket and as it begins to be reabsorbed into the surrounding tissues, the colors of the bruising begin to change. That’s why you will often notice the coloring of the black eye to go from a dark purplish-red color to brownish and then yellow. 

Sometimes along with the external bruising, you might also notice a small amount of bleeding on the white surface of the eye, which is called a subconjunctival hemorrhage. This is when the tiny blood vessels on the white sclera are broken and leak blood. It’s generally harmless but sometimes looks scarier to the patient than the black eye does. This condition will also reabsorb on its own and is nothing to be concerned about. 

While most black eyes can look pretty serious due to the dramatic color, an uncomplicated black eye will typically heal within a week to ten days. If it doesn’t, there could be a more serious issue such as a bone fracture or an orbital blowout fracture.This could present with restricted eye movement, especially if looking up or down, and numbness of the cheek and/or upper lip on the same side as the black eye. The eye may even appear sunken in. Further, if there is bleeding within the actual eye (called a hyphema) or floaters or flashes in the vision, then it is definitely advisable to see your eye doctor as soon as possible. These could be signs of more serious damage such a corneal or retinal damage and can lead to vision loss. 

Treatment for a Black Eye

Usually, the best treatment for a black eye is to apply a cold compress (or even better, a bag of frozen vegetables, which is more flexible and can conform to the contours of the face) directly on the area. The cold will reduce swelling and constrict capillaries to reduce internal bleeding as well. Apply the cold for about 15-20 minutes every hour.  If there is pain, over the counter pain medications can help. 

If however, you experience any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical attention:

  • Blood on the surface of the eye or a visible incision on the eye
  • Vision changes such as double vision, blurred vision, loss of vision or the appearance of floaters
  • Loss of consciousness, dizziness or fainting
  • Loss of eye movement
  • Persistent headaches
  • Blood or fluids coming from the ears or nose
  • Vomiting
  • Signs of infection such as excessive swelling, pus, redness or a fever
  • Severe pain

In addition to blunt trauma, black eyes can be caused by sinus infections, nasal or eye surgery or other infections in the area such as the teeth infections or cellulitis (a serious infection that can occur around the eyes). A skull fracture can also cause both eyes to turn black, sometimes known as raccoon eyes. 

Unless you notice any severe symptoms you can rest assured that your black eye is a bruise just like anywhere else on the body and with a little care, rest and patience, it will clear up in no time. 

Cataract Awareness and Prevention

It’s National Cataract Awareness Month

According to the World Health Organization, cataracts are responsible for 51% of cases of blindness worldwide – although this blindness is preventable with treatment. In fact, research shows that in industrialized countries about 50% of individuals over the age of 70 have had a cataract in at least one eye. This is partially because cataracts are a natural part of the aging process of the eye, so as people in general live longer, the incidence of cataracts continue to increase.

What are Cataracts?

Cataracts occur when the natural lens in the eye begins to cloud, causing blurred vision that progressively gets worse. In addition to age, cataracts can be caused or accelerated by a number of factors including physical trauma or injury to the eye, poor nutrition, smoking, diabetes, certain medications (such as corticosteroids), long-term exposure to radiation and certain eye conditions such as uveitis. Cataracts can also be congenital (present at birth).

The eye’s lens is responsible for the passage of light into the eye and focusing that light onto the retina. It is responsible for the eye’s ability to focus and see clearly. That’s why when the lens is not working effectively, the eye loses it’s clear focus and objects appear blurred. In addition to increasingly blurred vision, symptoms of cataracts include:

“Washed Out” Vision or Double Vision:

People and objects appear hazy, blurred or “washed out” with less definition, depth and color. Many describe this as being similar to looking out of a dirty window. This makes many activities of daily living a challenge including reading, watching television, driving or doing basic chores.

Increased Glare Sensitivity:

This can happen both from outdoor sunlight or light reflected off of shiny objects indoors. Glare sensitivity causes problems with driving, particularly at night and generally seeing our surroundings clearly and comfortably.

Dulled Colors:

Often colors won’t appear as vibrant as they once did, often having a brown undertone. Color distinction may become difficult as well.

Compromised Contrast and Depth Perception:

These eye skills are greatly affected by the damage to the lens.

Darkened Vision:

Often individuals with cataracts find that they require more light than they used to, to be able to see clearly and perform basic activities.

Cataract Treatment

Early stage cataracts may be able to be treated with glasses or lifestyle changes, such as using brighter lights, but if they are hindering the ability to function in daily life, it might mean it is time for cataract surgery.

Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed today and it involves removing the natural lens and replacing it with an artificial lens, called an implant or an intraocular lens. Typically the standard implants correct the patient’s distance vision but reading glasses are still needed. However as technology has gotten more sophisticated you can now get multifocal implants that can reduce or eliminate the need for glasses altogether. Usually the procedure is an outpatient procedure (you will go home the same day) and 95% of patients experience improved vision almost immediately.

Cataract Prevention

While doctors still don’t know exactly how much each risk factor leads to cataracts there are a few ways you can keep your eyes healthy and reduce your risks:

  • Refrain from smoking and high alcohol consumption
  • Exercise and eat well, including lots of fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants
  • Protect your eyes from UV radiation like from sunlight
  • Control diabetes and hypertension

Most importantly, see your eye doctor regularly for a comprehensive eye exam. If you are over 40 or at risk, make sure to schedule a yearly eye exam.

Are You Ignoring Your Dry Eyes?

You Don’t Have to Live With Dry Eyes

Have you noticed that your eyes feel chronically dry, itchy, scratchy or even sometimes watery? Many people that have these symptoms just go on with their lives until the symptoms become unbearable. What they don’t realize is that these are signs that they might be suffering from dry eye syndrome, a condition in which the eyes are not able to produce enough tears to effectively lubricate the eyes. This is a problem that won’t just go away on its own.

What causes Dry Eye?

Dry Eye Syndrome, also known as Tear Film Dysfunction is characterized by a reduction in the amount or quality of tears that are produced. Tears are essential for optimal eye health, vision and comfort. Ideally, tear film covers the eyes at all times to prevent the eyes from drying out and to ensure clear vision. If the glands that produce tears start to produce fewer tears or tears that don’t have the proper balance of water, oils, proteins and electrolytes, the tear film with become unstable, allowing dry spots to form on the surface of the eye, and cause disruptions in outer barrier of the eye’s epithelial surface. This disruption in the outer barrier allows microbes to invade the eye, leading to irritation and infection. The condition can be caused by many factors, including tear gland dysfunction, eyelid problems, medications or environmental factors.

Symptoms of Dry Eye

As mentioned above, many of the symptoms of dry eye involve varying sensations of dryness including, burning, stinging, itching, grittiness, soreness or a feeling that there is something in the eye. The eyes may also be red and sensitive to light, wind or smoke. Vision may be blurred or doubled and the eyes may fatigue easily. Another common symptom is that vision seems blurry but clears when you blink (especially common when reading or using a computer). This is because the tear film does not form a smooth coat over the eye surface or it evaporates too quickly causing a blur.

You may also notice pain, some discharge from the eye (especially upon waking in the morning) and experience discomfort when wearing contact lenses. One of the most confusing symptoms of dry eye is actually excessive tearing, which occurs because the eyes are trying to compensate for the lack of moisture – however the tears produced are low quality and don’t properly hydrate the surface of the eye.

Reducing Symptoms

The first thing to look at when you have dry eyes is whether you are taking any medications, engaging in certain behaviors or being exposed to environmental factors that may be causing the condition. Medications that may cause dry eye as a side effect include:

  • Antihistamines and Decongestants
  • Diuretics
  • Sleeping pills
  • Birth Control pills
  • Antidepressants
  • Acne medications
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Opiate-based painkillers such as morphine

Important! Never stop medication without the approval of your doctor! If you are taking a medication that may be causing dry eye, don’t stop taking the medication without speaking to your healthcare provider first. Treating dry eye symptoms may be a simpler solution than stopping or switching medications.

You may be able to alter your environment to reduce symptoms of dry eye as well. Environmental factors that can exacerbate dry eye include:

  • Wearing contact lenses
  • Extended use of computers or other electronic devices
  • Exposure to dry, windy climates or blowing air (such as an air conditioner or heater).
  • Exposure to smoke
  • High altitudes

Treatment for Dry Eye

If you are experiencing dry eye symptoms, make an appointment with your optometrist. The diagnosis and treatment will be based on a complete examination of your eyes, your medical history and your personal circumstances around the condition. The doctor may decide to perform a tear film test that can determine the quantity and quality of the tears and whether your tear glands and tear film are functioning properly.

The type of treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the problem. Treatment may include behavioral or environmental changes such as using a humidifier, wearing sunglasses in windy weather, reducing computer time or changing to a different type of contact lens, as well as medical treatments that may include:

  • Artificial tears, eye drops or ointments to lubricate eyes
  • Steroid or antibiotic drops or pills may be used for certain conditions such as blepharitis
  • Reducing the drainage of tears by blocking tear ducts with silicone plugs
  • Medications such as Restasis which reduce inflammation and trigger tear production
  • In some situations a surgical procedure might be recommended
  • Scleral lenses that hold moisture on the surface of the eyeball

The most important thing you should know about dry eyes is that you do not have to suffer. Treatments are available to increase moisture on your eye and reduce the uncomfortable and sometime debilitating symptoms. If you are suffering, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor and get the relief you deserve.

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